Jolting the brain with a little electricity can boost memory, according to a report published in the journal, Nature Communications.
According to lead author of the study, Michael Kahana, zapping the brain with electricity has to be precise, meaning that the brain has to be stimulated in the right place at the right moment.
“We saw a 15 percent improvement in memory,” said Kahana, who is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Professor Kahana claims that the approach can offer new ways of treating people with cognitive problems caused by brain injury or Alzheimer’s disease. The author and his colleagues have spent years focusing on the brain’s frequent inability to store information we want to preserve.
In the study, the researchers had a computer deliver a pulse of electricity to different regions of the brain just before memory loss was going to occur. The jolt of electricity proved highly effective when applied to the area involved in recalling words, they claimed.
By stimulating the left temporal cortex, memory was drastically improved. The approach, however, did not work on other parts of brain, according to Kahana.
For the experiment, Kahana and his team recruited 25 patients with epilepsy who were in the hospital awaiting surgery to treat their seizures. They were viable candidates because doctors had already inserted wires into their brains to monitor electrical activity. The condition of the participants rendered them with severe memory problems, according to Michael Sperling, co-author of the study and director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
“We still really lack any experiments in people with other conditions to know for certain whether the treatment would prove effective or not,” Sperling says.
Even so, he remained optimistic that the research will lead to an electrical device which will boost memory in some patients. Sperling estimates that such a treatment could become available in about six years.
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