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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


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