The application of a light electrical current to the brains of people older than 60 improved their memory so that they remembered things like someone 20 years old, a study found.
It is possible that someday people will undergo such a procedure to strengthen their ability to remember, which is irritating not only in patients with Alzheimer's disease, but in an elderly person, according to researcher Robert Reinhart of Boston University. .
The treatment focuses on the so-called "functional memory", meaning that someone can perform a task in a few seconds, such as a mathematical problem in the mind. This ability, sometimes called "concussion," is crucial for actions such as taking a pill, paying a bill, buying groceries, or planning something, Reinhart said.
"It is where it is known … where information is processed", the expert explained.
It is not the first study that shows that stimulating the brain improves memory. But Reinhart, who published the results Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience, said that this experiment stands out because it showed good results in people of advanced age and because the new capacity remained almost an hour after the electrical stimulus stopped.
A scientist who had previously reported on how electrical stimulation improves memory warned that memory loss is not great in people of old age but in normal health conditions. But this experiment "eliminated the effects of aging in these people," said Dr. Barry Gordon, professor of neurology and cognitive science at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.
"It is an excellent first step" towards demonstrating ways to improve mental agility, said Gordon, who was not involved in the recent study.
However, Reinhart warned that more studies are needed to approve the process as an effective treatment.
The electrical power was supplied by a cap that also monitored the brain waves of each person. The electric shock was nothing more than a slight tingling, pulsating or rubbing sensation for about 30 seconds, Reinhart said. The skin then gets used to electricity and becomes invisible.
The idea is to improve communication between the frontal cortex (at the front of the brain) and the temporal cortex (at the left), because the activities between these two areas are no longer synchronized.
The electrical current passed both sections to resynchronize them. The results provided evidence that the interruption of message flow between those two sections caused the atrophy of functional memory in the late years, Reinhart said.