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Shocks to the Brain Boost Memory

Update Date: Aug 28, 2014 09:41 PM EDT
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Applying electric currents to the brain could boost memory, according to a new study.

Researchers said the latest study suggests that Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation could help treat memory disorders triggered by stroke, Alzheimer's disease and brain injury.

"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," senior author Joel Voss, assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a news release. "This noninvasive stimulation improves the ability to learn new things. It has tremendous potential for treating memory disorders."

Researchers said the latest study is the first to show that cooperation between many brain regions is essential for memory. They explain that the electric stimulation from the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation can be compared to a more talented conductor that's more able in synchronizing the different brain regions.

"It's like we replaced their normal conductor with Muti," senior author Joel Voss, assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said in a news release. "The brain regions played together better after the stimulation."

"This opens up a whole new area for treatment studies where we will try to see if we can improve function in people who really need it," Voss said.

"For a person with brain damage or a memory disorder, those networks are disrupted so even a small change could translate into gains in their function," Voss concluded.

The findings will be published August 29 in Science.

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