Brain stimulation may boost long-term, working memory in older adults

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Researchers from Boston University have found that applying noninvasive electrical stimulation to certain parts of the brain may help improve long-term and working memory in people over the age of 65 for up to a month.

Scientists hope their findings will help with other medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and anxiety. Memory loss can be part of the aging process. Researchers estimate that about 40%Trusted Source of people ages 65 and older experience memory loss.

While medicationsTrusted Source and other treatment options can help with memory loss due to aging, there is currently no cure for the condition.

Now, researchers from Boston University have found that applying noninvasive electrical stimulation to the brain over a certain time span helps improve long-term and working memory in adults over 65 years old, and they detected improvements 1 month after the stimulation.

This study recently appeared in the journal Nature NeuroscienceTrusted Source. In its most basic sense, memoryTrusted Source is the body’s ability to recall information it has received throughout its life. Memories can range from knowledge gained in the classroom and workplace, to everyday experiences, to special events like a marriage or birth.

Memories are housed in certain areas of the brain and fall into three different categoriesTrusted Source: long-term, short-term, and working memory.

Long-term memoryTrusted Source helps a person recall the skills they need to perform their job or a special event that happened many years ago. The hippocampusTrusted Source area of the brain stores long-term memories.

The brain stores short-term memoriesTrusted Source for a very short amount of time — only about 30 secondsTrusted Source — and these are stored in the prefrontal cortexTrusted Source. Examples of short-term memories are where you parked your car at the mall or what you ate for breakfast this morning.

Working memory is usually considered synonymous with short-term memory. However, past researchTrusted Source shows that working memories last a bit longer than short-term memories and help with completing cognitive tasks.

Memory gains for up to a monthFor this study, the Boston University research team tested a noninvasive type of electrical stimulation called transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS).

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