Magnetic pulses to the brain improve memory


Tickling an outer region of the brain with a changing magnetic field improves memory in healthy people, according to a new study in Science

A team led by Joel Voss at Northwestern University administered a small dose of electromagnetic pulses to 16 healthy volunteers. They did this daily for five days. The volunteers performed a memory test, and also submitted to head scans.

Though the volunteers couldn’t feel a difference, the researchers measured better connectivity between the outer stimulated region and the hippocampus, which is traditionally known as the seat of memory. Virginia Hughes at National Geographic explains:

Brain scans of the volunteers before and after their week of stimulation showed that the treatment significantly increased connectivity between the hippocampus and four other areas, including the lateral parietal cortex. So it seems that stimulating one part of the hippocampal memory network (the lateral parietal cortex) led to more robust connections in other parts of the same network.

This demonstration offers most promise for people with memory loss, due to brain damage or conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. For more, read Hughes’ detailed report or even the study itself.

Image via Voss lab

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at
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