Short Bytes: Based on the University of California’s Ted Berger, a startup named Kernel is developing neuroprosthetics that’ll help people suffering from neurological diseases. In the longer term, it’ll be able to boost human intelligence and memory.Kernel, a startup that recently came out of the stealth mode, is working to develop a tiny chip that can be implanted in the brain to act as a prosthetic implant. The device, called neuroprosthetic, is mainly aimed at people suffering from Alzheimer’s or some kind of brain trauma.
Before telling you more about the device, let me tell you something about Kernel, which was started earlier this year with an aim to build the world’s first neural prosthetic for human intelligence enhancement. The money behind the company comes from tech entrepreneur Bryan Johnson who sold his payments company to PayPal for $800 million and started a venture fund.
Neuroprosthetic that’s being developed by Kernel is based on a research effort that’s led by Ted Berger, the director of the Center for Neural Engineering at the University of Southern California. Talking to IEEE Spectrum, Berger says that “it’s really time” for a clinical device to improve human memory.
How does Berger’s “computer-in-brain” work?
Berger’s prosthetic will work as an artificial hippocampus–brain’s areas that deals with spatial navigation and memory. He plans to convert a short term memory into long term memory and store it.
“WE TAKE THESE MEMORY CODES, ENHANCE THEM, & PUT THEM BACK INTO THE BRAIN”
The electrodes in human hippocampus will record electrical signals from neurons. After studying how the signals associated with learning something new are converted into signals associated with storing information in long-term memory, Berger’s team created mathematical models that take a “learning” input signal and generate the “memory” output signal.
The implanted chip will have electrodes for recording the signals and encoding the information as a memory, and a microprocessor for computation purposes. “We take these memory codes, enhance them, and put them back into the brain,” he says.
In the lab, Berger has already built an artificial hippocampus rat and validated his theory has the rats successfully responded to his observations and tests. Compared to rats’ 200 billion neurons, humans have 86 billion neurons. So, Kernel will have to develop implants with denser arrays of electrodes from fetching more data from more neurons.
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