Sunday, September 1, 2013

Just a mild electric current through the brain to increase memory gain

Have you ever watched that compelling infomerical selling the incredible electrical muscle stimulator, the Tone-A-Matic, promising beautiful rippling abs to couch potatotes all around the world? Ever hope something similar would work for the brain? Well folks, you're in luck!

There has been mounting evidence that transcranial direct current stimulation can improve cognitive functioning (Boggio et al., 2006; Brasil-Neto et al., 2012; Javadi et al., 2012, 2013). However, many of the studies used single stimulation sessions with only transient effects.

Meinzer and colleagues (2013), from Charite University in Germany, looked to fix this very issue. They investigated the effects of anodal transcranial direct current stimulation over multiple days on 20 very lucky people. They found that mild electrical stimulation to the brain, right after the learning sessions, enhanced language learning over time for both familiar and novel words. But wait! That's not all. They also observed that the effects lasted over an extended period of time. They suggest that this technology could possibly benefit stroke patients during rehabilitation. 

I, for one, truly need this in my life. Especially right after learning someones name. Maybe a cheap DIY 9-volt electrical stimulator would work just as well? Then again, knowing my luck, maybe not. I'll stick with using mnemonics, for now. 

References:

Boggio PS, Ferrucci R, Rigonatti SP, Covre P, Nitsche M, Pascual-Leone A, & Fregni F (2006). Effects of transcranial direct current stimulation on working memory in patients with Parkinson's disease. Journal of the neurological sciences, 249 (1), 31-8 PMID: 16843494

Brasil-Neto JP (2012). Learning, memory, and transcranial direct current stimulation. Frontiers in psychiatry, 3 PMID: 22969734

Javadi AH, Cheng P, & Walsh V (2012). Short duration transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) modulates verbal memory. Brain stimulation, 5 (4), 468-74 PMID: 21962975

Javadi AH, & Cheng P (2013). Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) enhances reconsolidation of long-term memory. Brain stimulation, 6 (4), 668-74 PMID: 23137702

Meinzer M, Jähnigen S, Copland DA, Darkow R, Grittner U, Avirame K, Rodriguez AD, Lindenberg R, & Flöel A (2013). Transcranial direct current stimulation over multiple days improves learning and maintenance of a novel vocabulary. Cortex; a journal devoted to the study of the nervous system and behavior PMID: 23988131