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Study: Brain stimulation can work–if properly timed


Elec­tri­cal Stim­u­la­tion To Boost Mem­o­ry: Maybe It’s All In The Tim­ing (NPR):

Peo­ple with a brain injury or demen­tia often strug­gle to remem­ber sim­ple things, like names or places. In research pub­lished Thurs­day in the jour­nal Cur­rent Biol­o­gy, sci­en­tists have shown it may be pos­si­ble to improve this sort of mem­o­ry using tiny puls­es of elec­tric­i­ty — if they’re prop­er­ly timed…They tried the approach with a group of patients who had severe epilep­sy.

These peo­ple already had elec­trodes tem­porar­i­ly implant­ed in their brains as part of their treat­ment. And that gave the sci­en­tists a way to deliv­er tiny puls­es of elec­tric­i­ty to areas deep in the brain…

When mem­o­ry was pre­dict­ed to be poor,” he explains, “brain stim­u­la­tion enhanced mem­o­ry, and when it was pre­dict­ed to be good, brain stim­u­la­tion impaired mem­o­ry.”

In oth­er words, on a bad mem­o­ry day, stim­u­la­tion helped. On a good day, it hurt.

When stim­u­la­tion was deliv­ered to the right place at the right time, the researchers found, it could improve mem­o­ry per­for­mance among the patients by as much as 50 per­cent.”


The Study

Direct Brain Stim­u­la­tion Mod­u­lates Encod­ing States and Mem­o­ry Per­for­mance in Humans (Cur­rent Biol­o­gy)

  • Sum­ma­ry: Peo­ple often for­get infor­ma­tion because they fail to effec­tive­ly encode it. Here, we test the hypoth­e­sis that tar­get­ed elec­tri­cal stim­u­la­tion can mod­u­late neur­al encod­ing states and sub­se­quent mem­o­ry out­comes. Using record­ings from neu­ro­sur­gi­cal epilep­sy patients with intracra­nial­ly implant­ed elec­trodes, we trained mul­ti­vari­ate clas­si­fiers to dis­crim­i­nate spec­tral activ­i­ty dur­ing learn­ing that pre­dict­ed remem­ber­ing from for­get­ting, then decod­ed neur­al activ­i­ty in lat­er ses­sions in which we applied stim­u­la­tion dur­ing learn­ing. Stim­u­la­tion increased encod­ing-state esti­mates and recall if deliv­ered when the clas­si­fi­er indi­cat­ed low encod­ing effi­cien­cy but had the reverse effect if stim­u­la­tion was deliv­ered when the clas­si­fi­er indi­cat­ed high encod­ing effi­cien­cy. High­er encod­ing-state esti­mates from stim­u­la­tion were asso­ci­at­ed with greater evi­dence of neur­al activ­i­ty linked to con­tex­tu­al mem­o­ry encod­ing. In iden­ti­fy­ing the con­di­tions under which stim­u­la­tion mod­u­lates mem­o­ry, the data sug­gest strate­gies for ther­a­peu­ti­cal­ly treat­ing mem­o­ry dys­func­tion.


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