A Small Electrical Shock to the Brain Can Help You Find your Forgotten Memory – ExamMint

A Small Electrical Shock to the Brain Can Help You Find your Forgotten Memory
A Small Electrical Shock to the Brain Can Help You Find your Forgotten Memory

A Study by psychologists from the University of California at Los Angeles convincingly proves that a certain area of ​​the brain plays an important role in memory restoration. The study, published in the journal Cognitive Neuroscience, also shows for the first time that the use of electric current to stimulate this area, the left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex, improves people’s ability to restore memories. ,

A small electrical shock to the brain can help you find your forgotten memory

“We are seeing a dramatic improvement in memory performance due to an increase in the excitability of this region,” said Jesse Risman, associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles and senior author of research in psychiatry and science. behavior.

According to Rissman, left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex is important for a high level of thinking, including monitoring and integrating information into other areas of the brain. This area is located behind the left side of the forehead, between the eyebrow and the hairline.

Brain Can Help You Find your forgotten Memory

“We believe that this area of ​​the brain is particularly important for access to this knowledge in the past and for making decisions about it,” said Rissman, a member of the Brain Research Institute, UCLA.

A Small Electrical Shock to the Brain Can Help You Find your Forgotten Memory
A Small Electrical Shock to the Brain Can Help You Find your Forgotten Memory

Psychologists conducted experiments on three groups of people whose average age was 20 years. In each group there were 13 women and 11 men.

Participants watched a series of 80 words on a computer screen. For each word, participants were asked to introduce or introduce another person interacting with the word, depending on whether the words “I” or “other” appear on the screen. (For example, the combination of “gold” and “other” can make them imagine a friend with a gold necklace.)

The next day, the participants returned to the lab for three tests: one of their memory, one of their ability to reason, and one of their visual perception. Each participant wore a device that felt a weak electrical current through the electrode on the scalp to reduce or increase the excitability of neurons in the left rosolateral prefrontal cortex. According to Rissman, increasing their excitability, neurons are more likely to work, which improves communication between neurons.

(A technique called transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS) gives most people a warm, gentle tingling for the first few minutes, said lead author Andrew Westfal. who did research as a graduate student at the University of California. Postdoctoral Neurology at the University of San Francisco.)

During the first half of the study, all participants received a “fake” stimulation, which means that the device was briefly lit to give the impression that something was happening, then it was turned off. so no electrical stimulation is applied. This allowed the researchers to measure how well each participant performed tasks under normal conditions. Over the next 30 minutes, a group of participants received an electric current that increased the excitability of their neurons, the second group received a current that suppressed neuron activity, and the third group did not. got this fake stimulation. Researchers analyzed which group best remembered the words seen the day before.

First, scientists noted that there was no difference between the three groups during the first half of the study – when brain stimulation was not used – if the differences in the second half of the experiment can be attributed to stimulation, Westfal says.

Memory scores for the group whose neurons received stimulating stimulation in the second half of the study were 15.4 points higher than their estimates when they received fictitious stimulation.

Estimates for those who received false stimulation in both sessions increased only by 2.6 percentage points between the first and second sessions — a statistically insignificant change, which is likely to be related to their increased familiarity with the task, according to the article. And the scores for the group whose activity of the neurons was temporarily suppressed increased by only five percentage points, which, as the authors wrote, was not statistically significant.

“Our previous neuroimaging studies have shown that the left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex is actively involved in memory restoration,” said Rissman. “Now, the fact that people do a better job with this memory task when we excite this region with electrical stimulation is a causal proof that it contributes to the restoration of memory.”

“We didn’t think that using low electrical brain stimulation would make their memory perfect, but the fact that their productivity increased as much as it was amazing and that this is a promising sign that this method can be used to improve people’s memory.”

The task of substantiating the study asked participants to decide in seven seconds whether certain pairs of words are analogies. Half of the tests included pairs of words that were true analogies, for example, “moat” means “tickling”, “firewall” – “computer”. “(In both pairs, the first word protects the second from invasion.) The other half had a pair of words that were related, but were not similar.

The researchers found no significant differences in performance between the three groups.

A Small Electrical Shock to the Brain Can Help You Find your Forgotten Memory
Electrical Shock to the Brain Find your Forgotten Memory

In the last task, based on perception, the subjects were asked to choose which of the four words had the most straight lines in the printed form. (Example: among the words “symbol”, “museum”, “artist” and “energy” the word “museum” has the most straight lines). Again, no significant difference was found between the three groups – which, as Riesman said, were expected.

“We were expecting better memory, and we did,” said Rissman. “We also predicted that the reasoning problem could improve with increased excitability, which did not happen.” We did not think that this area of ​​the brain would be important for the task of perception. ”

Why do people forget names and other words? Sometimes this happens because they are not careful when they hear or see it for the first time, so the memory is not even formed. In these cases, electrostimulation will not help. But in cases where the memory is formed, but it is difficult to restore, stimulation can help to access it.

“Stimulation helps people gain access to memories that they would otherwise call forgotten,” Westphal said.

Although TDCS devices are commercially available, Rissman advises no one to try to perform a search under supervision.

“Science is still in its infancy,” he said. “If you do this at home, you can safely stimulate your brain with too much current or too long.”

Risman said that other areas of the brain also play an important role in restoring memory. Their future research will focus on a better understanding of the contribution of each region, as well as the effect of brain stimulation on other types of memory tasks

 

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