Technique That Acts Like An Orchestral Conductor For Tuning Parts Of The Brain Offers Hope For Improving Memory
Brief sessions of specialized brain stimulation can reverse decline in working memory by targeting key regions and synchronizing neural circuits in those areas. The method is appealing for several reasons, perhaps most of all because it is noninvasive.
The New York Times:
To Improve Memory, Tune It Like An Orchestra
Anyone above a certain age who has drawn a blank on the name of a favorite uncle, a friend’s phone number or the location of a house key understands how fragile memory is. Its speed and accuracy begin to slip in one’s 20s and keep slipping. This is particularly true for working memory, the mental sketch pad that holds numbers, names and other facts temporarily in mind, allowing decisions to be made throughout the day. On Monday, scientists reported that brief sessions of specialized brain stimulation could reverse this steady decline in working memory, at least temporarily. The stimulation targeted key regions in the brain and synchronized neural circuits in those areas, effectively tuning them to one another, as an orchestra conductor might tune the wind section to the strings. (Carey, 4/8)
Scientists Test Whether Brain Stimulation Could Help Sharpen Aging Memory
Aging brains struggle especially with working memory. Called the workbench of the mind, working memory allows us to store useful bits of information for a few seconds and use that information across different brain areas to help solve problems, plan or make decisions. (Lambert, 4/8)
Zapping Brain With Electricity Boosts Working Memory, Study Finds
By stimulating the brain in precise regions with alternating current (AC), “we can bring back the superior working memory function you had when you were much younger,” psychology researcher Robert Reinhart of Boston University told reporters. “The negative age-related changes [in working memory] are not unchangeable.” For alternating current, delivered by electrodes embedded in a skull cap, to become a treatment for working memory deficits, however, it would have to overcome a long list of hurdles, starting with proof that it’s safe. But whether or not the findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, result in any practical applications, they provide some of the strongest evidence yet of why older adults aren’t as good at remembering a just-heard phone number or an address in a just-seen text: Brain circuits become functionally disconnected and fall out of synchrony. (Begley, 4/8)
In other news on aging —
The New York Times:
The Diagnosis Is Alzheimer’s. But That’s Probably Not The Only Problem.
Allan Gallup, a retired lawyer and businessman, grew increasingly forgetful in his last few years. Eventually, he could no longer remember how to use a computer or the television. Although he needed a catheter, he kept forgetting and pulling it out. It was Alzheimer’s disease, the doctors said. So after Mr. Gallup died in 2017 at age 87, his brain was sent to Washington University in St. Louis to be examined as part of a national study of the disease. (Kolata, 4/8)
The Washington Post:
More Seniors ‘Aging In Place’ Mean Fewer Homes On The Market To Buy
Looking for someone to blame for the years of low inventory that have pushed housing prices higher and made it harder for millennials to become homeowners? While builders share some of the responsibility, recent research by Freddie Mac finds that people between the ages of 67 and 85 who stay in their homes longer and “age in place” also play a role. Fewer Americans ages 67 to 85 are leaving their homes than their predecessors. Homeownership rates dropped 3.6 percent among people born between 1931 and 1941 when they reached 67 compared to 11.6 percent among those born before 1930 when they reached that age. (Lerner, 4/9)
Be sure to check out KHN's extensive coverage on aging here.