Electrical brain stimulation experiment boosts memory in older adults: ScienceAlert

Our memory tends to deteriorate as we age, and with a rapidly aging world population, this is something scientists are trying to address – to allow us to function fully for longer and to ward off dementia and disease. as Alzheimer’s.

A new study suggests that gentle, noninvasive electrical stimulation, applied through a cap with electrodes attached, might be enough to combat the effects of aging and keep our memory circuits in better, more robust shape.

Technically, it’s known as transcranial alternating current stimulation, or tACS, and it’s thought to work by synchronizing our brainwaves.

In experiments conducted by researchers at Boston University, just 20 minutes of stimulation a day was enough to produce noticeable improvements in 2 types of memory functions that lasted at least a month.

With more research, this could open up methods for keeping our minds sharp as we age, as well as treating memory issues.

“Our results demonstrate that plasticity in the aging brain can be selectively and sustainably harnessed using repetitive and highly focused neuromodulation,” the researchers write in their published article.

Here’s what the team did: In a series of experiments, 150 people between the ages of 65 and 88 received 20 minutes of electrical brain stimulation daily for 4 consecutive days. At the same time, they were asked to listen to and recall 5 lists of 20 words each.

Based on previous researchtwo specific areas of the brain were targeted with distinct frequencies.

Stimulate the brain inferior parietal lobule at a frequency of 4 Hz has been shown to improve recall of words at the end of lists – that’s working memory in action, being able to remember something in the short term (like the dock number of where your train leaves).

Stimulate the brain dorsolateral prefrontal cortex at a frequency of 60 Hz was shown to help participants remember words from the beginning of lists, an indication of improved long-term memory. An example of long-term memory would be being able to remember where you parked your car at the airport after a week’s vacation.

Those who showed the worst levels of cognitive performance before stimulation treatment had the largest and longest improvements in memory recall.

“This is promising work, and it shows how incredibly flexible and adaptable the brain is,” said neuroscientist Tara Spires-Jones from the University of Edinburgh. The Guardian.

However, Spires-Jones Noted that the specific word list task given to participants may not be as representative of daily activities.

What we don’t know yet, and what wasn’t covered in this study, is whether or not people with impaired memory abilities due to a brain disorder can be helped by this type of stimulation and brain training.

This is something that researchers can examine next, as well as potentially analyzing how the treatment might work for those at risk of dementia – a syndrome which currently affects approximately 55 million people worldwide and which sees the brain deteriorate more than would be expected with normal biological aging.

Although still in its infancy, it’s a promising start: the technology is non-invasive, can be applied quickly, and lasts at least a month, while working on types of short-term memory recall. and long term.

“We hope we can extend this work significantly and provide more insight into how the brain works,” said Boston University cognitive neuroscientist Shrey Grover. Nature.

The research has been published in Natural neuroscience.

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