A little electrical brain stimulation can go a long way in boosting memory.
The key is to deliver a tiny pulse of electricity to exactly the right place at exactly the right moment, a team reports in Tuesday’s Nature Communications.
“We saw a 15 percent improvement in memory,” says Michael Kahana, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and an author of the study.
The approach hints at a new way of treating people with memory problems caused by a brain injury or Alzheimer’s disease, Kahana says. But the technology is still far from widespread use.
Kahana has spent years trying to understand why the brain often fails to store information we want it to keep.
“When we’re trying to study a list of items, sometimes the items stick and sometimes we have momentary lapses where we don’t seem to remember anything,” he says.
Kahana and a team of researchers thought there must be a way to help the brain do better. So they had a computer learn to recognize patterns of electrical activity indicating that the brain was about to have a memory lapse.
Then the team had the computer intervene by delivering a pulse of electricity to different areas of the brain just before the lapse was going to occur. And in the area involved in recalling words, the approach worked. To read more from Jon Hamilton, click here.