Magnetic Brain Stimulation Can Improve Memory



Brain Memory Concept

Inhibitory brain stimulation allows better memorization by reducing the power of beta-waves in the brain.

Memories of past events and experiences are what define us as who we are, and yet the ability to form these episodic memories declines with age, certain dementias, and brain injury. However, a study publishing in the open access journal PLOS Biology on September 28th by Mircea van der Plas and Simon Hanslmayr from the University of Glasgow and colleagues, shows that low frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation—or rTMS—delivered over the left prefrontal cortex of the brain can improve memory performance by reducing the power of low frequency brain waves as memories form.

Based on current knowledge of the brain and the effects rTMS, the researchers hypothesized that they could improve episodic memory, and in the process, generate targets for future memory-related therapies.

The researchers first analyzed past data from 40 college students who had been asked to memorize lists of words. Half of the students received slow rTMS over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex while trying to memorize the words, and the other half received rTMS over a control region of the brain. In a new experiment, researchers collected data from 24 college students who each performed a similar memory task under both rTMS conditions.

Analysis of both datasets revealed that memory performance was better for words that were memorized while the left prefrontal cortex was being stimulated. Examining the EEG data that was recorded during the experiments, the researchers found that the slow rTMS applied to the prefrontal region led to reduced power of low-frequency (beta) waves in the parietal region of the brain, which is known to be involved in attention and perception.

Because slow rTMS inhibits brain activity, and the prefrontal cortex inhibits the posterior regions of the brain, van der Plas and co-authors theorize that the slow rTMS disinhibited the activity of the parietal region, leading to enhanced encoding of the words being memorized, and thus improved memory.

van der Plas notes, “Our electrophysiological results suggest that frontal stimulation affects a wider network and improves memory formation by inhibiting parietal areas. These are complex but interesting effects that require further experiments to better understand their neural basis.”

Hanslmayr adds, “We were quite surprised when we saw these effects in the first study, which was designed to investigate a different question. Therefore, we needed to replicate the effects in a second experiment to see whether this is real, and indeed it seems to be.”

Reference: “Stimulation of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex with slow rTMS enhances verbal memory formation” by Mircea van der Plas, Verena Braun, Benjamin Johannes Stauch and Simon Hanslmayr, 28 September 2021, PLoS Biology.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001363

We recommend

  1. What’s the Frequency, Kenneth? As Information Flows Through Brain’s Heirarchy, Higher Regions Use Higher-Frequency WavesMike O’Neill, SciTechDaily, 2020
  2. Researchers Find a Link between Poor Sleep, Memory Loss and Brain DeteriorationStaff, SciTechDaily, 2013
  3. Neuroscientists Examine How Brain Waves Guide Memory FormationJames Kelly, SciTechDaily, 2015
  4. Study Shows Poor Sleep Linked to Alzheimer’s DiseaseJames Kelly, SciTechDaily, 2015
  5. MIT Scientists Reveal Brain Rhythm Role in Alzheimer’s ResearchMike ONeill, SciTechDaily, 2019
  1. Direct evidence for a prefrontal contribution to the control of proactive interference in verbal working memory.Eva Feredoes et al., Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2006
  2. Improved cognitive promotion through accelerated magnetic stimulationXingqi Wu et al., eNeuro
  3. Memories Are Made of ThisMichael D. Rugg, Science, 1998
  4. Efficacy and Safety of Palbociclib in Patients With Estrogen Receptor–Positive/Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2–Negative Advanced Breast Cancer With Preexisting Conditions: A Post Hoc Analysis of PALOMA-2Gelmon K, et al., The Breast, 2021
  5. Boosting Brain Activity From the Outside InLaura Helmuth, Science, 2001

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s