A new study, conducted by researchers at Boston University and published on Monday in Nature Neuroscience, found that stimulating two regions of the brain associated with memory storage and retrieval resulted in a small but statistically significant improvement in the subjects’ ability to recall words immediately.
This theory has yet to be tested to see if it holds true for more than merely memorizing lists of words. However, the study shows that mild electrical stimulation of the brain is not only harmless, but can even boost memory. People with the worst recollections in the trial, who would be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, had the greatest gains.
It was formerly believed by scientists that the brain stopped developing and changing sometime in early adulthood. It is now generally accepted that the human brain can change throughout time.
Using electrodes placed on the scalp, transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) aims to improve brain function by stimulating certain regions of the cortex with electrical waves. There is hope that the electrical pulses can alter the brain’s neural networking by simulating or altering brainwave activity, hence fostering development.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive alternative that employs magnetic fields to have the same effect, and it has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.
According to recent research published in Nature Neuroscience, the activation of brain cells is defined by the frequency of electrical stimulation at specified times.
The researchers from Boston University split randomly selected groups of 20 participants aged 65 to 88 into two groups to examine their long-term and short-term or working memories independently. Two memory-related brain regions were stimulated with alternating gamma waves at 60 hertz and theta waves at 4 hertz in the experiments.
Gamma waves, which have a frequency range of 30 to 80 hertz (cycles per second), are the shortest and quickest of the brainwave frequencies. Higher-gamma brain waves, which can reach 100 Hz, have been measured.
The gamma state is characterized by a state of complete and total mental involvement. When people are under intense pressure to maintain complete concentrate, for as when taking a test, solving a difficult problem, or repairing a problematic piece of machinery, they may emit gamma waves.
Theta waves are considerably less rapid, with a frequency of four to eight hertz. Driving to work without paying attention to the road, mindlessly cleaning your teeth or hair, or simply daydreaming are all examples of theta state activities. This is the time when people frequently have breakthroughs in thinking. Theta brain waves have been linked to successful learning prediction.