Researchers Find Novel Way Of Boosting Short-Term Working Memory

16 March 2017, 12:39 pm EDT By Erin Schroeder Tech Times
Stimulating the brain with electric waves may help in synchronizing brain waves and subsequently aid in improving short term working memory. This revelation may help people with short term memory loss to perform tasks better.  ( Dan Kitwood | Getty Images )

One will soon be able to bid adieu to worries of forgetting important information, which was shared by someone a few minutes ago. It seems that neurologists and scientists have found a way of improving short-term working memory.

The researchers feel that buzzing the brain with electricity may boost the short-term working memory function. This technology can in future be treated as a novel method of treating people with traumatic brain injury, stroke, or any form of epilepsy.

The Study

The researchers at the Imperial College in London found that the application of a low current on human brain can trigger and bring different brain functioning areas in sync with one another, enabling the individual to perform better at tasks involving working memory.

The study was conducted with 10 volunteers. These volunteers were asked to solve several memory tasks in ascending order of difficulty.

In this study, Ines Ribeiro Violante and his team used transcranial alternating current stimulation (TACS). While trying to solve the tasks assigned to them, the volunteers were given theta frequency stimulation in order to stimulate the two targeted brain regions.

The stimulations were received at the same time (synchronized), different times (unsynchronized), and in quick bursts to give the volunteers an impression of receiving the full treatment.

During the experiment, participants looked at a screen which had numbers and were asked to remember the particular number that had appeared before on the screen. In the harder trial, participants were asked if the current number matched with the two previous numbers.

The Result Of The Study

The result of this study showed that when the regions of the brain that were stimulated were in sync, the reaction time for memory task improved, especially in the harder trial where the volunteers had to remember two strings of digits in their mind.

What Are The Implications?

The research team hopes that this approach can be used to bypass those areas of the brain, which are damaged by injury and continue to relay signals for better brain functioning.

"We are very excited about the potential of brain stimulation to treat patients," said Professor David Sharp, a senior author of the study and also a neurologist at Imperial's Department of Medicine.


However, among the many problems that this study may have, one major hurdle is the individual nature of people's brains. Apart from getting the right frequency of the electrodes, what needs to be kept in mind is to select the correct part of the brain and get the beat at the opportune time.

The study was published in the journal eLife. 

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