Electrical Brain Stimulation For Memory. IT’S ALIIVE!!!:
In 1894, Pierre DeCoubertin coined the Olympics Motto: Faster, Higher, Stronger.
To an extent, non-Olympian humanity is constantly trying to do something similar.
And as our population becomes both older, and also more focused on mental-work,
The importance of being a lifelong Cognitive Athlete, or at-least maintaining fitness in that area becomes increasingly-apparent.
And a team at Boston University is showing that science previously-dismissed as Frankensteinian hokum can actually improve mental-performance…
Rage Against The Dying Of The Light:
So the bad news about Brains is roughly the same for physical athletes.
After a certain age, it seems they just start slowing-down.
A variety of theories have been proposed, including holes in the brain’s defensive barrier, and bacterial or viral infections.
But the short answer for the current study is: BU researchers have found a way to use electromagnetic-stimulation to synchronize two or more centers of the brain,
This drastically improved working memory in both older and deficient younger people, to the point where their performance matches the best-performing younger subjects.
Read on to find out more…
The New Evolution Of Brain-Hacking:
So we’ve heard the crazy brain-zapper narrative before.
Put some electrodes on your scalp, run a current through it, and hope for the best.
These are just the electricity-version of the supplement-style brain-hackers over at places like Longecity.
Just more Victor Frankenstein, and less caution.
But to to be fair, Trans-Cranial Magnetic-Stimulation (TMS or TCMS) has had some success for both Depression and Relaxation,
With even smartphone apps like Thync, seeking to refine the process even more.
But otherwise, until the real science comes in to do the serious analysis,
Hooking up some tiny jumper-cables to your head is looking like something out of a Three-Stooges skit.
Synchronizing, Coupling, And Getting The Frequencies Right:
But that’s where the new research comes-in.
Scientists at BU researched two different ways the brain times the functioning of regions involved in memory.
These are generally-expressed as the electrical signals firing-off at a certain frequency, or in waves.
What they found is that the prefrontal-cortex and memory-center, or hippocampus, synchronize and couple in waves at the gamma and theta frequencies.
If they’re not in-sync at the same frequency and also intersecting or “coupling” with the right timing between two different frequencies,
Then the information you take in is not well-stored in your working-memory.
This is important, because the working-memory of your hippocampus is the center of just about everything that works in your brain,
Like the motor-oil in a car’s engine.
It’s implicated in things like:
3) Math Skills
An Electrical Tune-Up For Your Mental Metronomes:
And as you might expect, what they found was that older people had more problems with synchronization.
The different regions do not time their operation relative to each other very well.
-Which creates a lot of misfires.
These begin to be experienced as MCI or Mild Cognitive Impairment.
So after deciding which region they wanted to influence (the parietal lobe) as a way to get to the hippocampus (because it’s buried too deep in the center of your brain),
Scientists found a way to send it the right signals to control the timing.
And in a test of 84 people, half of whom were young, and the other between 60 and 76 years old,
They found that if the right type of current was applied to influence the 2 centers for about 10 minutes,
It seemed to synchronize the PFC and the hippocampus,
So that they were both coordinated.
Electrical Brain-Stimulation Returns 60 Year-Olds To Fighting-Fit:
And the results showed that for people over the age of 60,
Their working-memories as evidenced by test-results were as good as the best 20-year-olds taking the test at 90 percent accuracy.
And they stayed that way for about the next hour.
Not only that, other tests were conducted even on 20-year-olds with poor working memories.
And they had the same great results.
With a little focused electrostim, they became as good as the best of their competition.
They even confirmed the results by trying the opposite-case and applying stimulation designed to desynchronize,
And as-expected, even 20-year-old superstar subjects did worse on the memory tests.
Can “Digital Drugs” Pick-Up Where Pharmaceuticals Leave-Off?:
This is all especially-hopeful, because it’s one thing to help only a single-population.
But if the same treatment works for several different ones, then it’s really confirmed.
And let’s face it, since many treatments for degenerative brain-conditions like Alzheimer’s and Dementia are not currently-working,
Maybe something along the lines of a “Digital Drug” might actually help people who need some kind of fix.
-Or even those who just want to achieve as much as possible.
But it gets even better than that.
Because one of the last comments the BU researchers had about the study was about longer-term treatments.
Fight The Future:
What-if they could increase the frequency or strength of the treatment?
Sort-of like re-paving a specific road with refreshed tarmac,
And therefore achieve longer-lasting results than just 54 minutes?
What-if they could use TMS in a similar way to the electronic implant for Depression,
Like a way to electrically-retrain a brain,
Or a “Pacemaker For Intelligence”?
Now you’re making many people even better than they thought they could be.
As long as they don’t overdo-it and cause damage,
Perhaps the only thing holding researchers back from shocking you right into having a better brain,
Is just the next few dozen test-runs, now that they’ve built a base on how to apply the current and get results.
Perhaps the longer you want to retain the highest-ability possible, electrical brain stimulation for memory and other function might really be in the cards; Mary Shelley would be pleased, I think…
Photo Credits: “hanging light bulbs”, by Free Images
• Source: BU
• Source Study: Nature Neuroscience – Working memory revived in older adults by synchronizing rhythmic brain circuits