It is possible to reverse the age-related decline in working memory by the noninvasive stimulation of the key brain regions. This is according to a study that was published on April 8th, 2019 in Nature Neuroscience. This approach made it possible for researchers to improve the synchronisation of activities between the temporal cortex and frontal cortex. This is vital for working memory. The approach was referred to as transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS).
The study suggested that failure of synchronization was a reflection of age-related impairment in a particular form of short-term memory. This was according to what Michael Kahana, who is a brain scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. He said that the approach could be useful in improving other types of memory if validated. It could be vital for the treatment of age-related memory decline or even dementia.
Robert Reinhart and John Nguyen, the leading researchers
The study was led by Robert Reinhart and John Nguyen, neuroscientists from Boston University. Electroencephalography (EEG) was used to monitor and noninvasively stimulate brains of two participating groups whereby the two groups included one with 42 people between the ages of 20 and 29 and another group of 42 people between ages 60 to 76. The working-memory tasks performance of the two groups were compared. It was discovered that the older people were less accurate and slower at recalling items that they had seen. They also had problems identifying the difference between two images that were nearly identical. There was lower synchronisation of the brain activity between the temporal and frontal cortices in the older group.
Once the two brain regions were stimulated for 25 minutes with tACS, it improved the synchronization. It also improved the memory test performance and their scores could be compared to those of the younger group. This effect lasted for more than 50 minutes after stimulation. Also, Reinhart told reporters that the use of this stimulation could resynchronize the circuits. You could even bring back superior functions that one had when younger.
The younger participants of the study were not able to receive much benefit from the stimulation. This implied that although it could help in reversing decline in memory, its application was not likely to enhance a still-sharp memory. However, even for the older individual, a lot of research will be needed to validate tACS as treatment for memory issues. This includes age-related declines and dementia symptoms.
The study is still a big step in the right direction to what has been viewed as a controversial approach. Marom Bickson who is a biomedical engineer at the City College of New York said the paper really excited them. They however, did not participate in the research. Nonetheless, told NPR that the study advanced the needle towards the establishment of a rigorous scientific base for that technique of brain stimulation.
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- Magazine, L. M. (2019, April 08). The Scientist. Retrieved April 20, 2019, from www.the-scientist.com: https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/noninvasive-brain-stimulation-turns-back-clock-on-memory-65712