London, May 11 (UNI) Have a habit of forgetting a name or face? How much would you pay to have a small memory chip implanted in your brain if it guaranteed you would never again forget a face or a name? Studies suggest that if you learn a word while slouching, you'll be better able to remember that word later if you're slouching than if you're standing upright.
It's not only humans all this applies to. Cue-driven memory, with all its idiosyncrasies, has been found in just about every creature studied: snails, flies, spiders, rats, monkeys and more. As a product of evolution, it is what engineers might call a kluge, a system that is clumsy and inelegant but a lot better than nothing.
A team of researchers in Toronto, for example, has shown how a technique known as deep-brain stimulation can make small but measurable improvements to memory by using electrical stimulation to drive the cue-driven circuits we already have.
But techniques like that can take us so far: they can make memories more accessible, but not always more reliable, and the improvements are likely only to be incremental.
Making our memories more accurate and more accessible would require something else - perhaps a system modelled on Google, whose search engine combines cue-driven promptings similar to human memory with the location-addressability of computers.
But would this turn us into computers? Not at all. A neural implant equipped with a master memory map wouldn't impair our capacity to think, feel, love or laugh; it wouldn't change the nature of what we chose to remember; and it wouldn't necessarily even expand the size of our memory banks.
Our problem has not been about storage capacity, but getting information back out - which is where taking a clue from computers could help.
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