Brain stimulation improves memory in epileptic patients

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By Philip Tubby | Tuesday 27 March 2018

Researchers in the US have developed a new technology which electrically stimulates the firing of nerve cells in the brain of people with epilepsy, finding it improves their short and long-term memory. The findings are reported today in the Journal of Neural Engineering

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

“People with Alzheimer’s disease often have difficulty recalling recent events, even while still being able to remember things that happened decades earlier. Techniques that boost a person’s ability to lay down new memories could potentially help tackle one of the most common symptoms affecting people with dementia.

“By stimulating the pattern of brain electrical activity a person displays when successfully committing something to memory, researchers in this study were able to improve memory ability in a small group of people living with epilepsy.

“While this is fascinating research, it only involved a very small number of people, none of whom were living with dementia. As Alzheimer’s typically damages the areas of the brain being stimulated in this study, we don’t know whether this approach would benefit people with the disease.

“Implanting electrodes in people’s brains involves extremely delicate surgery which doctors only perform in a very small number of people who have diseases like epilepsy. This approach can’t easily be widely implement or even tested, unless researchers are able to develop a less invasive procedure.

“Complex technologies like this take years of research to hone, but improving life changing symptoms like memory loss is an urgent goal for dementia research. To accelerate progress towards new treatments we must see continued investment in research.”


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Philip Tubby