TECH

How Powerful Electromagnets Could Be Used To Treat Dementia

They could improve your memory for specific things, like locations, shapes and colours.

23/01/2017 11:49 GMT | Updated 23/01/2017 12:02 GMT

Electromagnets could be used to hone the precise memories of people suffering from dementia and other memory loss disorders, new research suggests.

Scientists used an MRI scanner to identify participant’s brain networks, before stimulating the network associated with spatial memory. 

Over 24 hours, the therapy improved people’s ability to identify locations, one of the many types of precise memory that fades as Alzheimer’s and other memory-loss disorders take hold of the brain.

Northwestern University

“We show that it is possible to target the portion of the brain responsible for this type of memory and to improve it,” said lead author Joel Voss, assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University.

“People with brain injuries have problems with precise memory as do individuals with dementia, and so our findings could be useful in developing new treatments for these conditions,” Voss added.

“We improved people’s memory in a very specific and important way a full day after we stimulated their brains,” Voss said.

The paper, which was published Jan. 19 in Current Biology, is the first to target specific areas of memory for long periods of time using electromagnetism.

But it’s far from the first noninvasive therapy shown to improve people’s memory. 

Last summer, scientists at the University of North Carolina used weak electric currents to boost the memories of sleeping volunteers.

Sleep is crucial for helping your brain to catalogue what you’ve learned that day. But for millions of people with neurological disorders, the processes required to consolidate information simply don’t work properly.