Magnetic pulse brain stimulation could improve memory


A study has indicated that a continuous jolt of magnetic pulses to a person’s brain could improve memory.

It states that targeting a particular section of the brain with magnetic pulses may be a non-invasive method of improving memory.

Researchers based at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have found that by making use of a procedure termed Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), it is possible to change the memory functions in adult brains. This procedure has shown huge potential as a non-pharmacological method of treating stubborn depression. The main purpose of the study was to find out if a memory-related brain network is able to be manipulated and if so, if the manipulation will lead to improved memory.

The researchers based their research on the fact the recalling events needs several parts of the brain to work in unison with the area called the hippocampus, which is linked to memory. They needed to find a way to stimulate these particular regions to allow them to synchronise better and that would improve cognition and memory.

The author of the study and an assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern, Joel Voss, said the research was more of a feeling than he would like to admit. He said he is interested in this particular network and whether it can actually be improved.

The research involved 16 healthy adults between the ages of 21 and 40 who were required to undergo MRI scans to allow the researchers to view the structure of their brains. Thereafter, they underwent a memory test which involved random associations between images and words the participants were asked to remember. The participants then underwent TMS brain stimulation for 20 minutes per day for five days in a row. The part of the brain linked to the memory network was stimulated. TMS makes use of magnetic pulses to stimulate sections of the brain. It does not hurt and some describe it as a mild knocking sensation.

During the five-day period, the participants underwent tests on recall after they underwent the stimulation process and more MRIs were done. The participants were also required to undergo a fake placebo procedure. The results indicated that after the first three days, the stimulation had resulted in improved memory capacity and the accuracy of the test results improved by 30%. It also indicated that the brain regions were more in sync after the TMS.

Voss said that although the improvement was quite small, they would like to do tests in other people, such as the aged or those who are dealing with the initial stages of memory loss. He said the effects may be improved in an ‘unhealthy’ person.

TMS has been FDA approved as a treatment for depression. It is currently used when a patient does not respond to antidepressants, however researchers are of the opinion that it could be used as a first-line therapy. Voss’ involvement in TMS for depression is what prompted him to consider brain stimulation for improved memory.

This new research is experimental and only used a small section of the population.

Image Credit: deradrian


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Emma Brown

Emma graduated in 2005 from the University of York with a degree in English Literature. A huge passion for writing and health topics, Emma is a perfect match for Health News UK. Hobbies include; cooking, writing (of course), musicals and her 2 dogs.

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