ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Hot Topic: Study finds jolt to brain boosts memory

In an experiment likely to raise new hopes for those with memory-robbing diseases such as Alzheimer's, researchers have found that sending an electrical jolt to a part of the brain that plays a key role in memory improved people's ability to lear...

In an experiment likely to raise new hopes for those with memory-robbing diseases such as Alzheimer's, researchers have found that sending an electrical jolt to a part of the brain that plays a key role in memory improved people's ability to learn -and remember - their way across an unfamiliar landscape.

The study, conducted at UCLA and published in Thursday's edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, was small and highly preliminary, involving just seven patients with epilepsy. The technique is being used only experimentally with epilepsy patients, and the study subjects were not undergoing the treatment but were being prepared for surgery.

But deep brain stimulation helped all seven subjects - including some who suffered memory impairment - navigate faster and more accurately through a virtual town.

Since the treatment also gave a boost to subjects with no signs of dementia, the study is likely to reignite a simmering debate over the ethics of enhancing the mental capacities of people in perfect cognitive health, experts said.

The new results build on animal studies that found deep brain stimulation not only boosted activity in the brain's memory centers, but spurred the growth of new brain cells when those regions were damaged. The fact that the same technique improved memory performance in humans makes some researchers optimistic that it might be a way to block or reverse the destruction of brain cells in patients with Alzheimer's.

ADVERTISEMENT

Though physicians are now able to diagnosis Alzheimer's disease earlier than ever - sometimes years before memory lapses and other cognitive changes become evident - they are still at a loss to alter the disease's progress.

Source: L.A. Times

Related Topics: HEALTH
What To Read Next
"It’s easy to make assumptions about a person based on their outfit or their day job," Coming Home columnist Jessie Veeder writes. "I mean, my dad used to work in a bank and he also broke horses and played in a bar band at night."
This week, gardening columnist Don Kinzler fields questions on hibiscus plants, beating apple trees and how long grass seeds will last.
Columnist Carol Bradley Bursack explains the differences between Alzheimer's, dementia and other common forms of dementia.
If it plays well in Winnipeg, it’ll be a hit in Fargo, and all points within planting distance.