Do you suffer from bad memory and are increasingly frustrated with this? Memories are part of how we understand and navigate the world, which is why when we start losing our memory, it becomes frustrating – whether it be ourselves or for our family and friends. The onset of ageing also brings about other diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s which affect memory too.
Your brain doesn’t just lose memory through diseases though, head injuries such as concussions (depending on how drastic they are) can also lead to memory loss or make it easier for the person suffering from such injuries to develop one of the mental problems mentioned above. This has been the case for veteran soldiers who have fought in wars as well as athletes (specifically American Football athletes) who have sustained a lot of head injuries for one reason or another.
Scientists are starting to make progress in discovering ways to win against dementia and head-trauma based diseases. All it takes is an electro-shock.
In a recent study carried out by the University of Pennsylvania and funded by the US Department of Defense, scientists gathered patients who had acute epilepsy and monitored their brain waves and cognition abilities; this was done to see the level of damage their memory had taken.
Once recorded, patients had an array of electrodes installed through their skull. The electrodes were set up to send out electric pulses to the brain to (hopefully) kickstart their cognitive ability and allow their memory to improve.
The basis for how this works is rooted in the fact that our brains utilise electrons in other to connect the dots that make up our memories, and diseases such as Alzheimer’s or head injuries directly affect them, making it harder for them to send out their pulses.
Previous studies used this approach previously, specifically one in 2014 which was also funded by the Department of Defense. However, the results of that study were muddled, some patients seemed to have good results from the pulses while others got worse.
According to Michael Kahana, one of the leading researchers of the study, the reason for these failed attempts might’ve been due to the timing in which the electron pulses released. Just like how we can have days where we don’t feel like ourselves; people who suffer from memory loss also have moments where their cognitive abilities are better or worse.
Kahana and Youssef Ezzyat (the other leading researcher) believe that the timing of the pulses influence whether or not our memories can recover. They, in turn, made quite an exciting discovery. It seems like our cognitive abilities improve when the electrodes send out pulses as our memories are on the lower side than when they are better.
Using this hypothesis, they discovered that patients who had the stimulus at the time when their memory was at its lowest had a twelve to thirteen percent increase, whereas subjects who received the pulses when they could remember things easier had a fifteen to twenty percent decrease.
Of course, the results aren’t perfect; they can vary from person to person and sometimes they might not even work. There’s more research going into it though, and the team behind the project as well as the Department of Defense seem hopeful in what they’ve discovered so far. With any luck, they’ll be able to make more progress and open a path to new discoveries that can help revolutionise the way we look at our memory.
Photo Credits: Eczema Outreach Scotland, Eat Right Ontario, QuickBase