By using fine wires implanted in the brain, scientists pinpointed which region to target to improve memory.
Over the last few years, more and more has been discovered about our potential to alter how the brain works, from transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to interfacing directly with computers. People with epilepsy who have had ultra-fine wires implanted in their brains to track seizures are the perfect group to extend this research. A new study from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA shows, incredibly, that targeting one area of the brain with low-level electrical impulses from these wires can improve human memory.
In the study, nine patients with epilepsy were asked to remember specific faces. Of those nine, eight patients improved their recollection of familiar faces after their brains were stimulated with impulses sent to their entorhinal region on the right side, an area associated with learning and memory. Sending impulses to the left side didn’t produce the same results.
Using the fine wires was a major step forward for these types of experiments. It allowed scientists to pinpoint areas of the brain with much greater accuracy and use electrical currents that were weaker than in previous experiments, only one fifth to one tenth as strong. The method showed that very low levels of electricity could improve memory if targeted to the correct areas of the brain. This makes some sort of memory augmentation implant a bit closer to reality.
This is a small study, but it is promising, and scientists believe that in the future, research like this could provide treatments to Alzheimer’s and other diseases that affect memory. The work will also be noted by a number of companies working to develop brain implants.