Brain stimulation improves word recall in severe epilepsy

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By Philip Tubby | Tuesday 06 February 2018

Researchers have found that electrically stimulating regions of the brain can improve the ability of people’s memory. Their findings were reported in the scientific publication Nature Communications.

Dr David Reynolds, Chief Scientific Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“While dementia involves a range of complex symptoms, memory problems are among the most common and can have a devastating impact on many people’s lives. Brain function depends on electrical as well as chemical signals, and as technology advances, research is beginning to investigate whether direct electrical stimulation of certain areas brain could help improve aspects of memory and thinking.

“In this small study, brain stimulation allowed people with severe epilepsy to better remember and recall lists of words, however none of the participants had dementia. As this research looks at how well the device works in people with epilepsy, it stimulates a different part of the brain than would typically be targeted in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Although it’s promising to see tests of this innovative device, which can detect and be trained to recognise areas of brain that may benefit from further stimulation, we cannot yet say whether it will benefit people living with dementia.

“Ways to improve memory and thinking skills is a key goal in dementia research, but it has now been over 15 years since researchers developed a new drug that is able to do this. It is crucial that we see continued investment in dementia research so that scientists are able to evaluate and realise the clinical potential of interesting new findings like this.”

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Philip Tubby