Dr. Theodore Berger of the University of Southern California believes it might be possible to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s or even stop it with an advanced new microchip. The Berger chip could potentially take over many vital brain processes and change how people collect and store memories. While further tests are still needed, initial trials on mice and monkeys have been successful.
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The Human Brain and Alzheimer’s
The hippocampus is the memory center of the brain, and it is often the first area damaged by Alzheimer’s. In a healthy brain, webs of protein are flushed away from the hippocampus cells when too many accumulate in a single area. Seniors who have Alzheimer’s lose the ability to clear the protein away, and the webs eventually starve and damage the brain cells. Researchers believe around 44 million people around the world have Alzheimer’s, and it is one of the leading causes of death among the elderly.
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Neuroprosthetics Take Over Key Processes
Dr. Berger’s chip is a small silicone implant that can be woven into the hippocampus where it begins taking over key processes, including transferring brain impulses. The chip uses a unique programming language that not only understands the impulses, but can also speak back to the living soft tissue. Many of the initial tests were carried out on mice, but researchers quickly began testing the technology on primates diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Dr. Berger claims human trials are underway, and believes there may be promising breakthroughs over the next few months.
The Limitations of Neuroprosthetics
These brain chips are not a cure for Alzheimer’s. They will not give seniors the ability to retrieve old memories they have lost, which is why it is so important to catch the disorder in its earliest stages. The microchips may allow seniors to build, store, and access new memories as they are created. As Alzheimer’s progresses, the webs of protein continue to damage other areas of the brain that are responsible for reasoning, long-term memories, solving complex problems, and spatial awareness. To defeat the disorder, researchers must come up with medications or procedures that prevent plaque from developing or spreading.
Brain Chips and Future Alzheimer’s Treatments
These chips are just one of the many advanced treatment options being tested throughout the world. Alzheimer’s is a complex disease, and many seniors respond to various treatments in different ways. Another team of doctors is currently testing a new drug that could potentially dissolve the protein before it is able to kill brain cells. Currently, some of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and slow the rate of cognitive decline are maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and engaging in activities that constantly challenge cognitive abilities.
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