This Startup Will Sell a Brain Chip to Improve Your Memory

Finally, you can remember what you had for lunch last Tuesday.

If you had an improved memory, would your memories be improved? Think of it as a theoretical question for now: You’ve been offered a greater clarity of recall, a speedier access to your mental records, more precise and numerous details of the defining moments from your past. Does this prospect warm your heart and fire your imagination? Or make you shudder?

The answer to that question may influence how you’ll feel about Kernal, a new startup in the biotech world. Kernal is the brainchild and would-be golden goose of University of Southern California neuro-engineer Theodore Berger. Kernal is setting out a road map to commercializing a brain implant that will help customers bring to mind things they will otherwise have forgotten. The device, referred to by Berger as a “prosthesis,” will act as an electronic prompt to the hippocampus.

The hippocampi are, of course, those long ridges that lie like flooring in the lateral ventricles of your brain. The hippocampus is thought to be where your emotions and memories and your autonomous nervous system all hang out. Think of the Kernal prosthesis as like a computer chip for the hippocampus. Think about that chip way down in the depths of those hippocampi. 

From IEEE Spectrum:

An implant could help someone whose hippocampus doesn't properly turn information into memories. An implanted memory prosthetic would have electrodes to record signals during learning, a microprocessor to do the computations, and electrodes that stimulate neurons to encode the information as a memory.
“We take these memory codes, enhance them, and put them back into the brain,” Berger says. “If we can do that consistently, then we’ll be ready to go.”

Although a reverse-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind scenario is the intuitive tangent to drift on with Berger’s prospective product, the Kernal device’s primary, and serious, target market consists of Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and brain-trauma patients.

It’s easy to imagine, however, a future where performance-enhancing and recreational brain chips have become readily available and are packaged along with instructions for simple self-installation.

So, for anyone who thinks the coming day of mass-market memory-booster chips is a fabulous prospect, pull out your smart phone right this instant and set a reminder to sign up for one. Hurry. Set that reminder before you forget what you wanted to remind yourself about.

The rest of you, the queasy ones who prefer the shadow and nuance of functional deniability, might want to hold out for version 3 or 4.0, when the gadget has an off switch.

Thanks to Boing Boing for turning us on.