It sounds like something from science fiction, but according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, getting your brain zapped can indeed improve your memory. Apparently, the region in the brain called entorhinal cortex (ERC) holds the key to better spatial memory.
The study centered on epilepsy patients who had electrodes connected to various parts of their brains. This was done so that experts could trace where their seizures were coming from. Alzheimer’s researchers then figured they could hit two birds with one stone by testing the controversial idea of zapping brain regions to improve memory while the epilepsy patients were undergoing the procedure.
Seven patients were then asked to play a video game, which had them acting as taxi drivers. Their task was to drive six passengers to six different locations. While the participants were driving to half of the assigned destinations, researchers zapped various parts of their brain, including the ERC. This reportedly did not hurt.
When the patients were asked to repeat the six routes, researchers found that the participants were able to make shortcuts to destinations they had learned to navigate while they were being zapped. According to their analysis, the experimental zapping could have improved spatial memory, allowing the participants to get a better idea of the city layout.
While the results seem to be positive, the researchers agreed that further tests should be done to see if they would translate to Alzheimer's patients with memory problems. At the same time, Dr. Itzhak Fried, a neurosurgeon at University of California, Los Angeles, and one of the researchers of the study, said they were encouraged by the fact that all the participants of the study had improved memories regardless of how they started out before the tests.
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(Photo by El Tecnorrante via Flickr Creative Commons)