Zapping the brain with electricity seems to improve memory in older people

(Neo) #1

Zapping the brain with electricity seems to improve memory in older people

Zapping the brain with electricity seems to improve memory in older people

Stimulating parts of the brain with electricity to get brain waves back in synch temporarily reverses the effects of age-related memory loss.

Our ageing brains: Our working memory, the way we hold information in our brains for a short period to help us carry out tasks, gets worse as we get older. It seems to be linked to how different parts of the brain work in synch with each other. But as we age, these brain waves fall out of step, and working memory gets worse. This makes it harder to follow conversations, read or concentrate.

The experiment: Scientists from Boston University tested young people and old people on a series of memory tasks. Unsurprisingly, the younger group were better. Then participants were fitted with an electrode-covered cap that stimulated two areas of the brain (the temporal and prefrontal cortex)with electricity for 25 minutes in a way that made the brainwaves fall into synch. When the groups were tested again the participants who had been stimulated were much improved in the tests—and were as good as the 20-year olds. The effect lasted for at least 50 minutes, when measurements were stopped. The paper was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience yesterday.

What it means: The study suggests there may be ways of treating age-related memory loss but the study will need to be repeated with more participants and as a proper clinical trial. There is also no evidence that the effects would continue after the experiment was ended. A DIY culture of using brain stimulation to increase focus already exists, but there has not yet been enough research into whether it is actually safe. Don’t try this at home, basically.

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