Can scientists bring back memories?

Neuroscientists now know where and how to stimulate your brain to help you recall old memories.

Researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA stimulated the brains of people with epilepsy, who consequently showed a significant memory improvement after receiving low-current electrical pulses.

Scientists delivered electrical pulses to the right side of the entorhinal area – the part of the brain that is critical for memory and learning. When this part of the brain was stimulated, those tested were able to identify the faces of specific people who looked almost identical to people they did not know.

“The entorhinal cortex is the golden gate to the brain’s memory mainframe,” said senior author Professor Itzhak Fried.

“Every visual and sensory experience that we eventually commit to memory funnels through that doorway to the hippocampus. Our brain cells must send signals through this hub in order to form memories that we can later consciously recall.”

When similar stimulation was sent to the left side of this region, there was no improvement in the patient’s recall.

The study provides further evidence to the theory that human memory can be stimulated by electricity – specifically, impulses sent to the entorhinal area.

It suggests that electrical stimulation could be a promising treatment for cognitive conditions and memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

“Losing our ability to remember recent events and form new memories is one of the most dreaded afflictions of the human condition,” said Prof Fried.

“Our preliminary results provide evidence supporting a possible mechanism for enhancing memory, particularly as people age or suffer from early dementia. At the same time, we studied a small sample of patients, so our results should be interpreted with caution.”

Would you undergo electrical stimulation to enhance your memory? Or is it a little too close to the stigma of ‘electro-shock therapy’?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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