Scientists boost memory with electric current to brain
Neuroscientists in America have found a way to stimulate memory with electrical current using magnetic pulses, with enormous potential to treat memory disorders resulting from stroke, Alzheimer's and brain injury.
The doctors at Northwestern University in Chicago also showed for the first time that remembering events requires many brain regions to work in concert with a key memory structure called the hippocampus – like a symphony orchestra with each instrument playing its part.
They say the electrical stimulation is like giving the brain regions a more talented conductor so they play in closer synchrony.
Joel Voss is assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and senior author of the paper published in Science today. He says It isn't possible to directly stimulate the hippocampus because it's too deep in the brain for the magnetic fields to penetrate.
So, using an MRI scan, Voss and colleagues identified a superficial brain region a centimeter from the surface of the skull with high connectivity to the hippocampus. He wanted to see if directing the stimulation to this spot would in turn stimulate the hippocampus. Voss says
We show for the first time that you can specifically change memory functions of the brain in adults without surgery or drugs, which have not proven effective. This noninvasive stimulation improves the ability to learn new things. It has tremendous potential for treating memory disorders."