Gentle jolts of alternating current to the brain restored the waning working memories of older adults (aged 60 to 76 years old) to performance levels seen in younger adults (aged 20 to 29)—at least for a little under an hour.
The scalp-delivered electrical bursts appeared to resync brain waves across areas of the noggin important for high-level thinking and memory—the prefrontal and temporal cortex—which appeared to have fallen out of step over the years. The results, published Monday in Nature Neuroscience, support the idea that out-of-sync ripples of electrical activity from neurons firing in different areas of the brain may help spark gradual declines in working memory during aging, as well as memory deterioration associated with dementias, such as Alzheimer’s. Moreover, the finding generates some early buzz that such non-invasive brain stimulation may one day, in the distant future, be used as a therapy for such memory issues.
The authors of the study, Boston University researchers Robert Reinhart and John Nguyen, concluded that “by customizing electrical stimulation to individual network dynamics it may be possible to influence putative signatures of intra- and inter-regional functional connectivity, and rapidly boost working-memory function in older adults.”