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Stimulating the Brain With Electric Current May Help Boost Memory

  |  Updated: March 15, 2017 14:39 IST

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Stimulating the Brain With Electric Current May Help Boost Memory
Highlights
  • Stimulating the brain with electricity may synchronise brain waves
  • It may help improve short-term working memory
  • Our brain consists of neurons, which are electrically charged cells
We have commonly come across movie scenes where a character is electrocuted to numb his aggression or bring him back to life, so on and so forth. While anything is possible in the movies, in reality it is a very different scenario. Electricity is a dangerous medium, which can kill living beings in an instant. Yet, its controlled usage is not uncommon in the medical field. According to a new study done by Imperial College London, electricity may help in improving one's memory. The researchers found that stimulating the brain with electricity may synchronise brain waves and help improve short-term working memory that could improve treatments for people with traumatic brain injury, stroke or epilepsy.

It may sound shocking but there are different properties of electricity and a little zap could actually prove to be beneficial in medical treatment. Our brain consists of neurons, which are nothing but electrically charged cells that transmit messages through electrical and chemical signals. The researchers stated that applying a weak electrical current through the scalp can align different parts of the brain, synchronising brain waves and enabling people to perform better on tasks involving working memory.

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"What we observed is that people performed better when the two waves had the same rhythm and at the same time," said lead author Ines Ribeiro Violante, a neuroscientist at the Imperial College London. "The hope is that it could eventually be used for patients with brain injury, or even those who have suffered a stroke or who have epilepsy," added Violante.



The team used a technique called transcranial alternating current stimulation (TACS) to manipulate the brain's regular rhythm in 10 volunteers. Using TCAS, the researchers targeted two brain regions -- the middle frontal gyrus and the inferior parietal lobule -- known to be involved in working memory.



The findings revealed that when the brain regions were stimulated in sync, reaction times on the memory tasks improved. Functional MRI images of the brain showed changes in activity occurring during stimulation, with the electrical current potentially modulating the flow of information.



"The results show that when the stimulation was in sync, there was an increase in activity in those regions involved in the task. When it was out of sync, the opposite effect was seen. The hope is that it could eventually be used for patients with brain injury, or even those who have suffered a stroke or who have epilepsy," said Violante.



The study was published in the journal eLife.



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