A new neurotechnology technique that could help humans to erase painful memories has raised “huge ethical problems,” says a leading neurologist, because it threatens to artificially change a person’s personality.
The memory-editing technique, which is called decoded neurofeedback, or DecNef, was created for the treatment of PTSD.
It uses an electromagnet similar to an MRI scanner, to measure various changes in the brain, such as the level of oxygen in the blood.
The data gathered by the scanner is sent in real time to an artificially intelligent imagine learning agent that maps which areas of the brain are active when particular memories are stimulated.
Aurelio Cortese, a computational neuroscientist and principal investigator of the ATR Computational Neuroscience Labs, said that the AI component is vital to understanding what’s going on in the human brain: “Machine learning is used to learn the neural representation of the target mental representation in the first place,” he said.
“This machine learning decoder is then used in the neurofeedback procedure, to detect the activation patterns and compute the likelihood that it corresponds to a target pattern.”
The second phase of DecNef is to monitor the parts of the brain where these “painful” memories are active and training the patient to control the impact of the stimulus.
The memories aren’t deleted, in the same way we’d delete unwanted documents from a computer, Cortese stresses, but DecNef teaches the patient to control and suppress the brain’s natural response.