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Augmenting The Brain Is Set To Pioneer Alzheimer’s Treatment

As artificial intelligence becomes more human, to co-exist, does human intelligence need to become more artificial?

5May

We’ve spent a lot of time philosophizing about where Artificial Intelligence is going to take us, how close we are to achieving general AI and the implications it will have on humanity. Hype aside, there are companies out there who are focusing on how we can use artificially intelligent applications to improve the human experience, sustain life on our planet and significantly boost the economy. This pioneering technology could well see the next world-changing scientific discovery hailing from Silicon Valley, especially considering the significant increase in investment over the past few years.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s today, with a predicted 16 million by 2050, and a further 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. The degenerative disease is currently the 6th leading cause of death in the US and has also been linked to the poor health of caregivers too due to care responsibilities associated with the disease as opposed to caregivers to elderly people without dementia. Having a neuroprosthetic could be the missing the key to an improved quality of life for both sufferers and caregivers; from remembering something as basic as how to boil a kettle safely, where they live or how to dress is hugely significant.

We’ve recently mentioned Elon Musk’s new venture Neuralink, which is concerned with merging the human brain and AI and what this could mean for the ‘Big Data’ in our brains, but let’s delve into exactly how we can hack the human brain and its potential to benefit millions of people. Similar to Musk’s latest project, Bryan Johnson, founder of Kernal is working on a way in which we can leverage this technology to alleviate effects of Dementia and Alzheimers amongst other neurological and degenerative diseases. Talking recently in an interview about his company, he acknowledges that the degeneration of the body and the brain is ‘landlocked’ when it comes to the progression of HI in relation to AI. He states. 'this is a question of keeping humans front and center as we progress.' Setting their sights on hacking the brain for medical application, this type of technology will one day be able to be leveraged for improving human intelligence, health, and human-computer interaction.

Working with Kernal, Biomedical Engineer, and CSO, Theodore Berger has been researching a neuroprosthetic, that can be implanted into the hippocampus - the part of the brain associated with long-term memories and emotion. By replacing damaged neutrons in the brain, the neuroprosthetic aims to replicate the signaling in the brain, both receiving and sending electrical activity inputs and outputs to the parts of the brain that are damaged. This activity would replace the computational functionality of the damaged parts of the brain, and let the cells and nervous system communicate in order to function properly.

Not only are there limitations when it comes to testing and the willingness of patients to have an implant in their brains at an experimental stage, but there are complications when it comes to our understanding of the human brain itself. Gathering large data sets on the functionality of the cognitive system will take years of research, not to mention a lot of financial investment. Johnson’s goals may be distant, with many obstacles to overcome but if neuroscience and AI technology are really the next space race, Kernal is certainly ahead of the curve. Augmentation of the human brain, and more significantly of memory, could mean one day we can access an archive of memories, or even completely eradicate unwanted ones - think, 'Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind'.

Not only could this radical biomedical technology aid memory loss and cognitive function, but it could also help stroke survivors with speech problems, or help those with severe brain injuries regain motor function, amongst many other conditions.

This innovative technology that Kernel and Neuralink are working on has the potential to dramatically improve the lives of millions of people the world over. Breakthroughs in areas like neuroprosthesis and enhancing human intelligence have the potential to accelerate scientific discovery not only in other aspects of healthcare, but also general AI, and the evolution of enhanced human intelligence.

Where do you think this amazing technology could take us?

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