Deep stimulation 'boosts memory'

Electrical stimulation of areas deep within the brain could improve memory, early research suggests.

A team of doctors in Canada stumbled upon the finding while attempting to treat a morbidly obese man through deep brain stimulation (DBS). The electrical stimulation caused the patient to experience vivid memories.

The findings, reported in the Annals of Neurology, potentially pave the way for electrical stimulation to treat disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. Lead researcher Professor Andres Lozano, of the Toronto Western Hospital, said: "This is a single case that was totally unexpected. We knew immediately this was important. We are sufficiently intrigued to see if this could help people with memory disorders."

The team had been trying to help a 50-year-old obese man with type 2 diabetes and sleeping disorders who had failed to respond to diet, medications and psychological help.

He had refused gastric surgery, and doctors decided deep brain stimulation, although experimental, was his best option. It has been found to have an impact on appetite in animal tests, but has not been widely tested as a treatment for obesity in humans. However, it has been used to treat Parkinson's disease, chronic pain, severe cluster headaches and even depression with some success. The technique involves implanting electrodes into the brain: in this case into an area in the limbic system called the hypothalamus, which is thought to control the appetite.

When the electrodes were stimulated by electrical impulses the patient began to experience feelings of deja vu. He then had a sudden perception of being in a park with friends.

He felt younger, thought he was around 20-years-old, and his girlfriend of the time was there. He was an observer, and saw the scene in colour.

As the intensity of the stimulation increased, details in the scene became more vivid.

Source - BBC

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