Electrical device can boost memory by giving shocks to the brain


A recent study at the University of Pennsylvania has provided positive results for an electrical device that could help to significantly improve memory capacity. The device was tested in the hope that it could eventually be used to treat Alzheimer’s patients. It works by sending electric shocks to the brain, and the initial trial was very promising, showing that it could improve memory by 15 per cent. British experts agreed that the initial outlook was very positive, but noted that it was too early to say whether it could definitely act as a suitable treatment for dementia.

The device works by first monitoring the brain for indications that subjects are not properly remembering words that they have learned, before delivering short bursts of electricity to neurons. By targeting a specific area of the brain that processes language, researchers said that patients’ ability to remember words was “reliably and significantly” boosted.

The experiment was carried out with 25 participants, focusing on the medial temporal lobe which is thought to play an important role in forming and consolidating new memories. While stimulating the lobe, the device was able to indicate to the researchers when subjects were struggling to memorise a particular word. The patients had to memorise 12 words appearing on a screen for 1.6 seconds, before having to complete a number of arithmetical tasks as a distraction, and then finally being asked to recite the words back.

The chief scientific officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK had this to say on the study; “While dementia involves a range of complex symptoms, memory problems are among the most common and can have a devastating impact on many people’s lives.

“Brain function depends on electrical as well as chemical signals, and as technology advances, research is beginning to investigate whether direct electrical stimulation of certain areas brain could help improve aspects of memory and thinking.

“Ways to improve memory and thinking skills is a key goal in dementia research, but it has now been over 15 years since researchers developed a new drug that is able to do this.”

We expect similar electrical treatments to be used increasingly throughout the medical industry, as forms of neurostimulation technology have already been used to improve sleep and curb anxiety.