Sound information is analyzed by our brain through two pathways, one of which – the dorsal stream of the parietal lobe – is responsible for high-level memory processing. Previous correlational evidence suggests that brain activity and memory are linked; a recent study from the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University explored this link by measuring the causal effect of magnetic pulses on auditory memory. By setting transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to mimic and enhance the brain’s natural waves, researchers visualized the normal brain patterns, as well as what happened when these patterns were scaled up. Participants performed a musical task that involved the dorsal auditory stream and their brain waves were measured with electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) imaging techniques. Identifying theta waves as the major relevant form of brain activity, researchers experimented with enhancing these waves using rhythmic TMS (rTMS) during the task at the appropriate time and found that this increased the participants’ memory performance. Lead author Philippe Albouy explained: “This means that the more theta waves the brain is generating, the better the participants are at their tasks.” This study is not only relevant to students cramming for exams, though; further research in this area may have implications for other types of memory (such as visual and perceptual) and could prove this technique to be a viable form of therapy for Alzheimer’s disease. Next steps for the researchers include determining whether this treatment affects long-term memory in addition to short-term memory.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Neuron: http://www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S0896-6273(17)30198-8
DATE RETRIEVED: April 7, 2017