The Brain is a Marvel of Technology We Don’t Understand

Could a SenseCam help keep Alzheimer's at bay?

Could a SenseCam help keep Alzheimer's at bay?

The more I learn about the brain the more I realize we have not much of a clue how it works. As we improve our scientific knowledge, there is so much further to go. Understanding how to treat Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is a case in point. The truth is, we don’t know much. How about putting a camera on a patient’s chest, have it take random pictures, and use those photos to trigger memory recall and therefore retard Alzheimer’s? They’re doing it at the University of Toronto’s Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI) using a SenseCam from Microsoft Research.

Their experiment didn’t work as intended, but positive results include better patient morale and participation. Even these seemingly insignificant results mark progress that cannot be discounted. Improved morale could lead to an overall happier patient and family, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Researchers hoped that since the patient had helped to select the images for inclusion, that the resulting display would improve his memory of the depicted people and events.

It didn’t, but psychological evaluations after the trial indicated that the device had contributed to a general improvement in the patient’s mood and sense of self. Most importantly, it had provided a focus for conversation between the patient and his daughters, who had been caring for him.

Mankind loves to believe we are in control of our destiny, but the fact is that we are not. Stumbling along the path in search of knowledge is more fitting, most times wasting time and money, sometimes hitting something unintended, and rarely solving a known problem. Who knew that mirror therapy, advocated my Professor Ramachandran would be a possible cure for phantom pain in amputated limbs?

Read profusely. Look down the hole and be curious. Ponder and ask questions. Prove or disprove. Rinse and repeat. The outcome will eventually change our world. We hope.

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