Making Memories with a Microchip


Friday, November 04, 2011

Ted Berger is trying to build a microchip that can remember things for us. He teaches biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California, and his goal is to create a device that can take over for the hippocampus of the brain, translating thoughts into long-term memories. But that’s a complicated task. “If they’re not transformed the way the hippocampus transforms them,” Berger explains, “then you can’t store them. That’s what it boils down to."

Berger would like to help patients with severe memory loss, but at the moment he’s teaching rats to pull a lever. He studies what happens when the rat learns a task — how the electrical signal of an individual thought moves through its brain.

If scientists can identify the electrical pattern of a thought, could they, one day, implant that thought or memory in another person — like the CIA assassin of The Bourne Identity (or countless other fictions)? Berger doesn’t think so, and he says we should be relieved. “Who we are is in large part defined by what we remember,” he explains. “I mean I don’t want to wake up one day with somebody else’s memories. I want my own, thank you.”

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Comments [5]

Craig Hall from Tampa, FL

Dear Kurt,
Your guest commentator was mistaken. The Bourne Identity and it's two (now three) sequel movies had nothing to do with false implanted memories. The character is a CIA assassin who suffers amnesia. The trauma of Bourne's experiences have partly to do with his realization of the level of collateral damage that the job of a hired murderer entails. In one case he kills a target in a hotel room, then also has to take the life of the man's wife who surprisingly appears on the scene. In a second assignment, he hides out on board a pleasure boat to kill a Nigerian man, only to find the guy sitting on a sofa with his two young children at the moment the murder is supposed to go down. This time he fails and is instead shot and his body is set adrift in the Mediterranean Sea, after which he miraculously survives, suffers amnesia and goes rogue. The things Bourne remembers partially and the memories that ultimately return to him in the story are of quite true events in his life. The plot portrays Bourne as a person the agency considers a weapon gone haywire, but I think you can interpret the character as someone who, due to rather admirable character traits, was probably refractory to the "programming" (i.e., brainwashing) protocol they had used trying to make him into a remorseless killer. Perhaps your guest was thinking of some other story/movie.

Sep. 02 2012 04:26 PM
Body memories from .

After that, the skin is carefully lifted to eradicate the excess fats, while at the same time making the muscles and tissues tighter. This will be followed by tightly pulling the skin and cutting the excess skin away. Once all of these are finished, the incision will then be closed with the use of fine stitches and staples. The entire procedure generally takes about 2-5 hours. You undergo a general anesthetic and stay two nights in hospital.

Feb. 05 2012 05:47 AM
John Lemon from Xalapa, México

You are talking about "Total Recall" LOL, any crazy Philip K. Dick novel. What happens if that brain gets fried or that chip? I remember Robocop 2, hahaha.... Classic.

Nov. 23 2011 11:41 AM

The early movie where implanted memories were a major plot point was 1995's "Johnny Mnemonic," written by William Gibson. More recent takes are "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Inception."

Nov. 09 2011 06:33 PM
Vic from .

As far as, implanting (false ~ enhanced) memories into the mind (memory chip) of "another"...Cosmetic Neurology... ( ? )
"Doctor?"....."Doctor Memory....!")
- I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus -

But I think you've got your movies memories mixed up...What movie was that...?
The Bourne Identity...?
Jason Bourne had memory loss as a result of traumatic stress, self assertion, & refusal... The Good Soldier gone BAD.
I believe "the movie" you're looking for is,
with reference of implanting soothing, & enabling memories into the (minds) of (almost perfect) human androids... Skin Jobs.
"Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep", Dick head.

Or, perhaps, even better, the movie,
A. I.

Then where are we supposed to go from here in this,
"Brave New World" ?
"Take it easy..."

Nov. 06 2011 01:19 AM

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