Can you improve memory? Brain stimulation could make a 'moderate to large' difference, study shows.
(Photo: Robert Reinhart)
For four consecutive days, 150 senior citizens pulled on a swim-like cap and allowed parts of their brain to be bathed with low-dose electrical pulses. During 20-minute sessions, they were given five lists of 20 words each and asked to recall them.
In some, the oscillations were directed to an area of the brain known to be involved in short-term memory, where a just-learned phone number would be stored. They were tested to see how many recently-mentioned words they remembered.
In others, the pulses were aimed farther forward, in an area known for storing memories longer-term. For them, though they didn't know it, the test was to see how many of the earliest words they recalled.
After the treatment, nearly all the participants did better on memory tests than they had before and better than controls. People who scored worse at the beginning showed the most improvement. And memory benefits remained a month later, according to a new study from Boston University, published Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
Although still in its early days, with lots of steps before such technology could be fully tested and become widely available, its implications are immense.
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