News / Health

Electric Current May Boost Memory in People with Cognitive Disorders

Researchers use a non-invasive procedure called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to jumpstart a region of the brain that’s involved in forming memories.
Researchers use a non-invasive procedure called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to jumpstart a region of the brain that’s involved in forming memories.
Jessica Berman

People with cognitive problems - including memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease - may someday be able to have their memory boosted with electric current.  Researchers used a non-invasive procedure called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to jumpstart a region of the brain that’s involved in forming memories.

Known as TMS, the technique uses a mild electrical current through the skull to strengthen communication among brain cells involved in memory. It could lead to new treatments for memory impairments caused by trauma, illness or aging. Current therapies - such as surgery and drugs - have not proven effective.

The neurons targeted by Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation are part of a pathway to the hippocampus, a deep brain region that’s involved in the formation of memories. 

Neuroscientist Joel Voss at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Illinois explained that the stimulation is painless and non-invasive.

“What the TMS coil does is it produces a volley of pulses of this stimulation.  And so it sounds like a high frequency tapping sound - like a duh, duh, duh, duh tapping sound - with about 20 clicks per second.  And those clicks are aimed at the back part of the person’s head over the parietal cortex, and each one feels like a very slight tapping sensation on the outside of the head,” said Voss.

In a study involving 16 healthy adults, ages 21 to 40, researchers took detailed anatomical pictures of the brain using MRI. The imaging mapped each participant’s neural network.

The subjects were then asked to look at pictures of faces and remember a random word associated with each image. 

The participants underwent 20 minutes of TMS each day for five consecutive days.  During the week, and 24 hours after the final stimulation, the individuals were rechecked on the arbitrary picture-word association test and underwent more brain imaging.

Writing in the journal Science, Voss said his team found the individuals’ memories had improved after TMS, and the MRI showed the memory neurons became more synchronized with each other and the hippocampus.

“This specific hippocampal network that we showed that we can manipulate is the exact network that is problematic in a variety of memory disorders, including memory disorders that occur from brain damage after stroke and cardiac arrest, traumatic brain injury from concussions or blast injuries... normal memory problems that older adults often experience as well as neurodegenerative disorders of age like Alzheimer’s disease,” said Voss.

Voss said the next step is to try to boost the memories of older adults and those with mild cognitive impairment using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

He said healthy people should not try to boost their memories with TMS since it’s still experimental.

Watch video from Northwestern University on TMS:

You May Like

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Comment Sorting
Comment on this forum (1)
Comments
     
by: Cranksy from: USA
September 02, 2014 1:42 PM
Is this study analogous to testing an erectile dysfunction drug on people who don't need it?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid