Memory Improved By Direct Electrical Stimulation

Direct electrical stimulation has been demonstrated to improve memory for the first time, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Scientists showed that the stimulating current, administered through electrodes in a specific area of the brain, greatly improved performance in a virtual driving game that tests spatial memory.

(University of Pennsylvania taxi-driver game to test memory)

“People should run to replicate this study, because the implications are incredibly exciting, both for understanding the mechanism for encoding new memories, and ultimately for the treatment of neurological diseases” like dementias, said Michael J. Kahana, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the research.

In the new study, a team of doctors at the University of California, Los Angeles, focused on a neighboring area, called the entorhinal cortex. The entorhinal cortex is now the center of intense study. It is where the first signs of damage in Alzheimer’s disease usually appear, and it has dense connections to the hippocampus, through which it transmits the streaming data of daily experience, studies suggest — presumably for sifting and encoding.

Improvements of 40 to 90 percent were noted in observations of how well the patients performed on a computer taxi driver game.

People have been fascinated by the electrical nature of the brain, and by experiments to improve or alter brain function using electrical stimulation for a long time; the use of electrodes to capture the electrical phenomena in the brain was first demonstrated in 1912 by Russian physiologist Vladimir Pravdich-Neminsky.

Golden Age science fiction writer Dave Cummins wrote about the idea of enhancing brain memory playback with electrical stimulation in his 1937 short story Brain Control:

The doctor was pleased. "Evidently my process worked perfectly. I call it automatic reversed memory. By sending the proper electric currents through that helmet I reverse the electrical action of the nerve cells in the brain and produce this reversed memory... as real as actual experience."
(Read more about automatic reversed memory)

Via New York Times.

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