How Technologies Can Make the Memory Sharp Again?

Saturday, August 3, 2019 - 14:13

According to Harvard Medical School, more than half of adults begin to struggle with age-related memory issues by age 60 therefore, how new technologies can play a role in slowing or reversing age-related memory loss.

“Most people will say, ‘I can’t remember what I had for breakfast — there goes my short-term,’ or, ‘I can’t remember 10 years ago — there goes my long-term,’” says Dr. Harry D. Schneider, neurolinguistics consultant for the Brain Function Laboratory at Yale University School of Medicine. However, short-term memory, which makes up to 50% to 75% of what we use every day, is anything that is 30 seconds or less, Schneider says. Everything else is considered long-term memory, Market Watch reports.

Based on the previous research, done by Northwestern University, Lead by Joel Voss, associate professor at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, a technique called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS was used to strengthen memory.

A form of noninvasive brain stimulation, TMS works by sending electromagnetic pulses into specific areas of the brain. The team targeted a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which helps you recall two unrelated things at the same time — for example, where you left your cell phone and your neighbor’s name.

Because the hippocampus is located too deep within the brain to stimulate non-invasively with TMS, the researchers focused on an area of the parietal lobe, which communicates with the hippocampus. Think of it like “a highway to the hippocampus,” says Schneider.

“[The results] certainly are promising, but we’re in the early stages of this kind of technology,” says Aneesha Nilakantan, a cognitive neuroscientist and data scientist on the Northwestern team. “A lot more research needs to be done, especially around what time is best to start TMS, and long it will last.”

Dr. Ryan Wakim, a board-certified psychiatrist and president and CEO of Transformations TMS centers in Pittsburgh and West Virginia, treats patients with depression using TMS. He does this using NeuroStar Advanced Therapy, which manufactures the TMS Therapy System.

Due to the TMS Therapy System slight risk, Dr. Harry D. Schneider, neurolinguistics consultant for the Brain Function Laboratory at Yale University School of Medicine, specializes in another type of noninvasive brain stimulation, called Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation, or tDCS.

It has an even lower risk for seizures and also it differs from TMS in a few ways. Rather than being confined to a chair, as with TMS treatments, patients undergoing tDCS can put the gadget into a fanny pack and walk around. tDCS is affecting its neuroplasticity.

Again, more research is needed, but there have been studies showing that strategically applied tDCS can temporarily improve thinking skills in healthy older adults, says Tracy Vannorsdall, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

However, “We are still working to determine what brain regions to target to optimize cognition in older adults, how frequently to apply tDCS and what cognitive training activities should accompany the stimulation,” Vannorsdall adds.



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