Scientists have revealed through a study that it is possible to boost memory of a person by up to 15 per cent if electric pulses are applied to that person’ brain.
The study published in journal Nature Communications says that such a boost in memory can be achieved by delivering precisely timed electrical stimulation to the left side of the brain. Researchers monitored a patient’s brain activity in real time during a task.
The patient watched and attempted to absorb a list of words, and a computer tracking and recording brain signals made predictions based on those signals. The researchers then prompted an electrical pulse at safe levels and unfelt by the participants, when they were least likely to remember the new information.
“During each new word the patient viewed, the system would record and analyse brain activity to predict whether the patient had learned it effectively”, one of the researchers said. “When the system detected ineffective learning, that triggered stimulation, closing the loop.”
After stimulation was turned off, the system would again listen to the subject’s brain activity, waiting for the next appropriate opportunity to generate the pulse.
The study involved 25 neurosurgical patients receiving treatment for epilepsy.
Patients participated at clinical sites across the US.
All subjects had already had electrodes implanted in their brains as part of routine clinical treatment for epilepsy.
“By developing patient-specific, personalised, machine- learning models, we could programme our stimulator to deliver pulses only when memory was predicted to fail, giving this technology the best chance of restoring memory function,” said Michael Kahana, professor at University of Pennsylvania.
“This was important because we knew from earlier work that stimulating the brain during periods of good function was likely to make memory worse,” Kahana said.