The team fitted 20 volunteers with ‘memory prosthesis’ and performed a series of experiments to monitor and stimulate brain activity. The subjects were currently participating in epilepsy monitoring and already had electrodes implanted in their brains.
Firstly, the team performed memory tests to collect brain activity data on the subjects as they learned. Then, using miniscule electric impulses, they stimulated the same areas of the brain that reacted in the original memory test, to boost its activity.
The results, presented at a meeting of the Society of Neuroscience in Washington DC last week, showed that the participants’ memory function improved to around 30% above their original baseline scores.
Whereas the research is in its infancy, it provides one of the first indications that artificial stimulation may, in the future, be employed to improve brain function. Practical applications of the technology could include helping treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.