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Would you want brain implants that improve your memory?

Would you want brain implants that improve your memory?
PHOTO COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK

You know that a lot of technological breakthroughs over the decades have come straight out of the U.S. military. What were once fantastical ideas developed for warfare, like GPS and microwaves, are now everyday tech tools that we can't live without.

So, what's in store for the future? Just check out the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's DARPA Wait, What? conference, which took place in St. Louis last week. Maybe you heard about the cat robot that was tooling around on skateboard wheels, delivering granola bars to attendees.

Or perhaps you've seen footage of next-generation helicopters that have insect-like legs, to land on surfaces that are uneven, or moving, like on an aircraft carrier. (See video on the next page.)

But one of the most intriguing developments announced at the DARPA conference involved brains. Specifically, dozens of people were implanted with electrodes that could be stimulated to improve their memory.

While a lot of DARPA's brain research remains confidential, what they did reveal about it is exciting. DARPA's brain research is being conducted to help wounded warriors, but it's easy to image it benefiting everyone.

They have shown they can implant electrodes into the brain that stimulate people's memories. For soldiers, perhaps they can relearn motor skills, like moving their legs. Or perhaps these brain electrodes can be stimulated to ease the suffering of post-traumatic stress disorder.

DARPA's research, and similar research being done at universities like USC, it's hoped can someday be used every day in hospitals around the world. Maybe in the not-too-distant future people with degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer's disease won't lose their memory, or can be stimulated to get it back.

It may be slightly unsettling to think about a future where people can have intelligence and skills implanted into their brain, like in the movie "The Matrix." But just think about how much good DARPA's research can do for countless millions of people, for generations to come.

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