Transcranial stimulation syncs old brains back to youthful state

Brittany A. Roston - Apr 8, 2019, 4:38 pm CDT
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Transcranial stimulation syncs old brains back to youthful state

Poor memory is a known consequence of normal aging, but a technology called transcranial stimulation may one day help elderly sufferers reverse the issue. A newly published study details work with the technology involving elderly participants who, in some cases, experienced memory improvements following brain stimulation that restored them to a youthful state. The stimulation resulted in ‘rapid improvement.’

As a person ages, they commonly experience issues with working memory, though the exact reasons aren’t clear. Understanding what causes this memory impairment will help researchers determine whether there’s a way to avoid or reverse it, and that’s where a new study out of Boston University comes in. The research involves participants aged 60 to 76 years and noted positive results after only 25 minutes of brain stimulation.

Though no single cause has been identified, it’s thought that different areas of the brain may become out of sync as we age, resulting in different areas of the brain no longer syncing up as tightly as before. As this mismatch grows, working memory may increasingly suffer, making it harder for older individuals to retrieve info.

If that’s the case, resyncing these different parts of the brain so that they are more tightly linked would potentially improve memory. That anticipated effect was demonstrated in a newly published study that utilized transcranial brain stimulation applied to specific neurons, essentially pushing them toward a particular wavelength.

When brain areas were synced, working memory in older adults improved, and those improvements lasted for longer than 50 minutes after the stimulation stopped. The technology is non-invasive and involved putting a skullcap covered in electrodes on the participants’ heads. The stimulation also had positive effects on younger adults who had lower performance in a memory exercise.

Unfortunately, more research is necessary to determine whether the results are clinically significant and how long the positive effects last.


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