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Electrical stimulation boosts memory, trial shows​

Electrical stimulation boosts memory, trial shows​
3rd September 2014

Stimulating a particular part of the brain can improve memory capacity, according to a new study from Northwest Medicine.

The use of non-invasive electrical currents delivered to the brain using magnetic pulses, called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), has opened up the possibilities to treat memory impairments caused by conditions such as early-stage Alzheimer's disease, traumatic brain injury and memory problems that occur when ageing.

The study was conducted by Joel Voss, assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University School of Medicine, who discovered the ability to specifically change memory functions of the brain in adults without surgery or drugs. The latter options have previously remained unsuccessful. 

Speaking about the findings, Professor Voss said: "Non-invasive stimulation improves the ability to learn new things. It has tremendous potential for treating memory disorders."

An individual's memory can be improved for at least 24 hours after the stimulation process has been performed, the study has proven. 

Professor Voss hopes to the put the findings to good use and use the TMS treatment on those who would benefit from it the most. It opens up a new area of treatment studies and allows the therapy to be improved.

The initial tester study was carried out with 16 adults aged between 21-40 and no apparent memory problems, therefore a huge improvement wasn't to be expected as their brains were already responding to the tasks as expected.

Speaking about applying the treatment to those with limited memory capacity, Professor Voss said: "For a person with brain damage or a memory disorder, those networks are disrupted so even a small change could translate into gains in their function."

The future of the study is yet to be determined with the team behind TMS stating an upcoming trial is to be carried out to understand the electrical stimulation effect on people with early-stage memory loss. 

Beyond the next planned trail, years of research is still required to determine whether the treatment is both safe and will prove effective for patients with Alzheimer's disease or similar memory disorders. 

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