"The world is not a lodging-house at Brighton, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it."
-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.
The world's first brain prosthesis - an artificial hippocampus - is about to be tested in California. Unlike devices like cochlear implants, which merely stimulate brain activity, this silicon chip implant will perform the same processes as the damaged part of the brain it is replacing.
No one understands how the hippocampus encodes information. So the team simply copied its behaviour. Slices of rat hippocampus were stimulated with electrical signals, millions of times over, until they could be sure which electrical input produces a corresponding output. Putting the information from various slices together gave the team a mathematical model of the entire hippocampus.
They then programmed the model onto a chip, which in a human patient would sit on the skull rather than inside the brain. It communicates with the brain through two arrays of electrodes, placed on either side of the damaged area. One records the electrical activity coming in from the rest of the brain, while the other sends appropriate electrical instructions back out to the brain.
If it works, the team will test the prosthesis in live rats within six months, and then in monkeys trained to carry out memory tasks.