Memory Boost for Dementia Patients

March 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Neuroscientists at UCLA claim to have found a method for improving memory. The team explains that by stimulating a certain area of the brain responsible for recollection, memory can be strengthened.

A specific site of the brain, called the entorhinal cortex, often considered the entryway that funnels memories into the hippocampus, controls the transformation of visual and sensory experiences into stored memories. Dr. Itzhak Fried, professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, says, “The entorhinal cortex is the golden gate to the brain’s memory mainframe.”

The UCLA research team, led by Fried, conducted a research experiment on seven epilepsy patients to identify the cause of their seizures by monitoring neuron activity in instances of memory formation. They did this by having the subjects play a video game.

Electrodes implanted in their brains, the subjects would play as a taxi driver in a video game featuring a cyber-city with virtual passengers who needed to be delivered to one of six requested stops. Researchers stimulated both the entorhinal cortex and the hippocampus itself to decipher which was more involved in recall.

The team found that when they stimulated nerve fibers in the entorhinal cortex during the learning portions of game play, patients were better able to recognize landmarks and were able to navigate travel routes more quickly. Fried says, “They even learned to take shortcuts, reflecting improved spatial memory.”

This means that stimulation during the learning phase is more important than continuous stimulation for memory recall. It also means that stimulation at the entry point to the hippocampus – not the storehouse of memory itself – is more effective in effecting visual memory recall.

Fried suggests that this may lead to the development of neuro-prothetic devices for Alzheimer’s patients, which can be turned on during specific learning stages of information processing for daily tasks.

Although none of the seven patients reported to experience any adverse effects, Fried advises that because the study was only performed on a small number of subjects, “our results should be interpreted with caution.” Future research in deep-brain stimulation is aimed at deciphering whether other types of recall can be improved with this method.

Sources

Elaine Schmidt. (2012, February 8). Scientists Boost Memory by Stimulating Key Site in Brain. Retrieved from Neuroscience News.com:http://neurosciencenews.com/entorhinal-cortex-brain-stimulation-improve-memory/

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