In a study conducted at Boston University, the performance of people who failed working memory tests was improved by electrical stimulation of the brain.
Stimulating the brain with electrical currents has potential treatment possibilities in many areas, from treating depression to eliminating the effects of Parkinson’s and waking up vegetative patients. One of the promising branches of this research is to stop cognitive decline by improving memory and learning. New research in this area reveals exciting potential. In the latest study conducted by Boston University researchers, the brain of 70-year-olds was made to function like a healthy 20-year-old.
Rob Reinhart, who examined how the externally placed electrodes on the heads of the participants would affect the elderly who had begun to lose their memory abilities, focused on the working memory of the elderly participants. This part of the brain allows us to remember what to buy, make decisions, or find car keys when shopping for groceries in daily life. According to Reinhart, working memory can begin to decline towards the end of the 20s. This is because different parts of the brain are moving away from each other and the coordination between them is broken. By the age of 60-70, this rupture causes observable cognitive decline.
In his research, Reinhart found a way to regenerate damaged pathways in the brain. This method is based on two different functions of the brain. The first of these, ‘matching’, is based on the correct occurrence of bouncing rhythms, just like in an orchestra, so that different parts of the brain can work together. The second is synchronization; that is, slow rhythms (theta rhythms) are synchronized correctly. Both of these functions decline as we age and take away our memory abilities.
Electrical stimulation improves performance
For his study, Reinhart recruited a group of healthy participants in their 20s, along with another group of participants in their 60s and 70s. All participants were subjected to some tests to measure their memory. Participants were asked to look at one image for a while, then stop and look at a second image. The answers of the participants, who tried to understand whether there was a difference between the two images, also showed how well their working memory was working.
As expected, the younger group predicted much more accurately than the older group. But Reinhart sent mild electrical impulses to the older group’s heads for 25 minutes, activating the participants’ neural circuits. Later, when the same test was repeated, it was seen that the difference in performance disappeared. It has been noted that the effect of electrical stimulation lasts up to 50 minutes. Reinhart also managed to improve the performance of some of the younger participants, whose results were not so good.
“We’ve shown that people who perform poorly in their 20s can benefit from the same stimulation,” Reinhart said. Even if they are 60-70 years old, we can strengthen their working memory.” said. Reinhart will now focus on examining how brain stimulations can improve brain circuits in humans. The focus of the studies will be Alzheimer’s disease. Reinhart said this study opens up a whole new field of potential research and treatment options, and they are very excited.
Source: New Atlas
As the brain ages, communication between its different parts becomes more difficult. This affects the performance of a person’s working memory and can cause various cognitive diseases. In a study conducted at Boston University, young and old participants were shown two different pictures at short intervals and asked if there was a difference between the pictures. Young participants were more successful in perceiving the difference between the pictures. This is an indication that their working memory is working better. However, giving the elderly participants light electrical waves for 25 minutes through electrodes placed on the outside of their heads caused them to do just as well as the younger ones. The effect of the electricity continued for 50 minutes. In the first study, some young participants who were underperforming also showed that their performance increased with the introduction of electricity.