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Ethical Aspects of Neural Prosthesis - Research Paper Example

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Ethical Aspects of Neural Prosthesis John Jones State University Introduction One of the more controversial aspects of the medical and psychological community has been the possible breakthroughs in the field of neural prosthesis, especially as they deal with memory enhancement…
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Ethical Aspects of Neural Prosthesis
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Download file to see previous pages How intrusive is this and what are the long term effects of such a thing? How much relief would be afforded the patients? Abstract The human brain is a remarkable device in that although scientists haven’t totally figured out how much memory the brain has, an article in Scientific American tells that each of the brain’s one billion neurons connect with more than one thousand others for a total of over one trillion connections. The author further estimates the total memory storage to exceed 2.5 petabytes or the equivalent of three million hours of recorded television so that one could never fill up his brain (Reber). In order to store memory the brain acts somewhat like the modern computer in that there is short term and long term memory storage. For the short term, like the computer, memory is held in the brain for a small period of time and divested when no longer required. A good example would be a small grocery list for that day’s shopping and when one gets home with the groceries that information is no longer required. This sort of memory is held in the brain’s Hippocampus of the temporal lobe. Long term memory means exactly that, memories are stored for months and years. Like the computer, the long term memory has to be encoded and stored. That is why if you are trying to remember an old grade school friend’s name, it might take a good while for the brain to process and retrieve the name. Yet long term memory is also responsible for such things as smells being associated with a specific occurrence in one’s life. Long term memory is encoded in the Hippocampus but stored elsewhere in the brain, although the exact location is undetermined, possibly the temporal cortex. Therefore, memory robbing events can be devastating to the victim. Such instantaneous things as traumatic brain injury (TBI), oxygen deprivation and strokes can render the patient helpless in seconds, no matter what the age. Then there are the debilitating diseases such as meningitis, cancer, epilepsy, thyroid disorders which again can strike at any age and cause memory loss. Sometimes with any of the above, especially in the young, the brain can be “reprogrammed” and some if not all of the memory functions can be restored. But for older people, the one event that destroys their memories are various forms of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s. Discussion However it occurs, all patients and their caregivers would certainly welcome any improvement in the person’s condition. With that goal in mind researchers are seriously trying to develop a neural prosthesis. Similar to current devices such as cochlear implants, pacemakers for the heart, and items for the eye, the neural prosthesis would offer help and hope to those with memory loss. Similar in appearance to the Intel memory chipset, the implant currently being used on laboratory rats has increased their memory in which they could then retain which lever to pull. With the tiniest of chips and thirty-two electrodes, it is placed at or near the rat’s Hippocampus, in two areas called the CA1 and CA3. The experiments are considered successful, even though the commands from the implant is specific to one set of lever pulling, unlike the thousands of memory commands the normal human brain endures on a normal basis (Berger). Therefore it goes without saying the implementation in human beings is many years off. But now would be the most excellent time to examine the ethic of such procedures. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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