Scientists have used a non-invasive form of electrostimulation to enhance the working memory of the elderly by effectively giving their 20-year-olds a 70-year-old thinking, at least temporarily.
Working memory is a cognitive resource that is responsible for making decisions at any time, allowing us to store and access access to useful and relevant information such as names, phone numbers, and where we put things.
Unfortunately, this resource decreases with age, and not only those who have a significant cognitive deterioration, such as dementia, but healthy people also experience a normal neurocognitive effect of aging.
The good news is that this decline in working memory is not foreseen
"Changes associated with age are not unchanged," said Neuroscientist Robert Reinhart of Boston University The Guardian .
"We can return the function of the highest working memory you had when you
Above: working memory (left t right) at the age of 20 without stimulation, elderly person without stimulation, elderly person with stimulation
In a new study by Reinhardt, his laboratory introduced a non-invasive electric current for both old and young people to see how it affected performance. x working memories
Within the experiment, 42 young participants (aged 20-29) and 42 elderly people (60-76 years old) were given a memory job in which they were to identify image differences , which they showed.
As expected, given that we know about the deficiencies of the working memory coming with age, the older participants were significantly slower and less accurate in performing the task than young adults However, age is just one way to explain this contrast.
The other is that certain rhythms in our brain can not be successfully coordinated in the elderly; These rhythms help different parts of speech information and brain memories.
Specifically, neuroscientists now believe that slow, low-frequency rhythms called theta-rhythms require synchronization with faster, high-frequency gamma rhythms between the prefrontal and temporal areas of the brain for the effective work of our work memory.
This synchronization is called phase-amplitude (PAC), but while it looks as behind as we age, the form of electrostimulation, called transcranial actuation stimulation (tACS), is detected
In the measurement of activity Brain from participants of electroencephalography (EEG) showed greater synchronization in young adults.
"The results show that theta-gamma PAC in young adults is behaviorally significant, which implies further success of the working memory," the authors explain in their work
But this is not all. The researchers used the target tACS stimulation form called HD-tACS on the participants, these synchronization shortcomings disappeared.
"HD-tACS was used to eliminate age-related violations precisely in the working memory," the researchers wrote. " This improvement in behavior was enough to eliminate differences in the source group precisely in the working memory, osc Although the elderly after stimulation had an average level of accuracy, it was not statistically different from the level of young adults at the beginning of the study. "
During 25 minutes of stimulation of the technique, the technique increased the performance of the older participants in the memory of the younger adults and the effects continued up to 50 minutes after the end of stimulation.
The researchers say that these improvements were reflected in the recovery of thetag gamma-linkage in the EEG testimony of older participants, and the benefits extend to young people, not just elderly people ku
In addition to testing, young adult participants who have poorly performed operational memory exercises have been encouraged by HD-TACS, which has also improved their results.
"We showed that poor performers who were much younger in their 20s could also benefit from that exact stimulation," says Reinhart in a statement
"We could improve their work memories, even if they were not in their 60s and 70s. "
Although it will take much more research before we fully understand the mechanisms used here – not to mention the possibility of developing treatment , based on the research – the results can be a big step in solving the problems of the shortage of working Am & # 39; s memory in aging populations worldwide. action, "says neuroscientist Nir Grossman from Imperial College London, who was not involved in the study.
"Regardless of the exact activity of the brain and the mechanism involved, the steady improvement of the working memory that was observed after a short stimulation period
For Reinhart, the next steps are to see how repeated doses of stimulation can affect people,
] Over time, and further positive results, researchers say that we might be looking at a whole new range of potential research and treatment options.
"It's wild to think that we can focus on the energy of the brain chain just as we want react Whit on neurotransmitter chemistry in the brain, "says Reinhart.