Hacking Memories


Our memories are considered our black boxes. They represent our experiences and cultures, and inspire how we deal with others. Yet, can modern science control human memories? In fact, science is currently seeking to achieve this, as scientists are trying to get into the brain and find out what is in there. Not only that, but they are also trying to control and change memories, insert new and delete old ones; how would they do that? Moreover, how would science benefit from such hacking of memories?

In science fiction movies, we often see attempts to invade and control human memories for purposes that could be good or vicious. Would fiction become a scientifically-proven reality, with supporting theories and research? Scientists at the Neurosurgery Department of Oxford University, Los Angeles, are seeking to invade human memory with a silicon chip known as Black Mirror; it is implanted into the human brain, and stores the desired memories. For this chip to function, scientists had to study the mechanics of storing information in the human mind, and how they turn into long-term memories.

How do memories form?

Scientists realized that the hippocampus is the part responsible for turning short-term memory into long-term memory. The hippocampus is a small crooked part of the brain that looks like a horn; it is located at the two sides of the brain under the cerebral cortex. The hippocampus turns our memories and experiences into electrical signals that move through neurotransmitters; it also helps the brain store them.

Is it possible to implant a memory device into the human brain?

Theordore Berger, an American scientist, is currently working on storing neuro-signals on a silicon chip that can be implanted into the brain. This chip would serve as a hippocampus and turn short-term memories into long-term ones. Berger is also developing mathematical theories that aim to explain how electric signals move through the brain and nerve endings in order to be stored as long-term memories.

He says it is doable, similar to the invention of the cochlear transplant for the deaf, which succeeded in turning sound into electric signals to be directly received by the hearing nerve. As such, Berger would turn information and experiences into electric signals, and save them on silicon chips to be implanted into the brain. It might read complicated; yet, it is not impossible!

How is hacking memories beneficial?

Memories are what form our current reality; they entail our childhood, education, experiences, and everything we have gone through. Some memories are happy; these help us go through the harsh journey of life. Some are sad and painful; these might leave a psychological scar, so we try to forget them as we move on with our life. However, some people with certain health conditions, including Alzheimer and memory loss, do not have these options; they do not remember anything from their past and experiences. Such an innovation would help them store their memories on these silicon chips, have them transplanted into the brain, and thus lead a normal life. The innovation would also help those suffering from mental illnesses forget painful memories that caused their conditions.

Is hacking memories harmful for humans?

If I could control my memories, I would have had the ability to control my emotions, actions, and reactions. Yet, memories are the summary of our past experiences, and some parties might use such technologies to add or remove certain pieces of information, or hide certain truths.

Finally, I would like to say that by 2025, scientists would probably be able to record and control the brain signals responsible for memories. They would store them on silicon chips and implant them into the brain; as such, they would be able to manipulate memories. Indeed, who masters science owns the world, makes history, and shapes the future as well.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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