Electrical stimulation to enhance memory

By the late eighteenth century, the Italian doctor Luigi Galvani (1738-1798) proved the electrical nature of nerve impulses. And he did the experiment that most remember having heard at school: by a small electric current applied to the spinal cord of a dead frog, Galvani, succeeded his legs, even separated from the body, took as if the animal were alive. You may also like to visit http://www.naturallyyoursmd.com/

That same experiment came to realize with corpses. So he concluded that the electricity needed to achieve these movements did not come from outside but was generated inside the living organism itself, which, once dead, retained the ability to drive the momentum and react to it accordingly.

electrical-stimulation-to-enhance-memoryAlessandro Volta Comte (1745-1827), the father of the electric battery, noted that electricity generated by the battery that it had invented in 1800 could cause contraction and neuromuscular tetanización preparation. With his remark had discovered the phenomenon of electrostimulation.

These striking experiments inspired the writer Mary Shelley, who in 1818 published his famous Frankenstein, a creature composed of parts of different bodies, which managed to revive thanks to electricity. And it is that the experiments of Galvani, Volta and Humboldt, became “trending topic.” To the extent that inspired Shelley’s novel, which can be considered the first work of science fiction.

“If you can imagine, it can be done,” as Jules Verne said. Electricity was implemented as in the brain, as electroshock. And two centuries later the electricity is used to resuscitate people who have suffered a cardiac arrest.

Today electrical brain stimulation is again a “trending topic” not only among neuroscientists, but also between people, at home, by the famous voltaic pile, a steady stream of low intensity apply, with the intention of enhancing memory, his consciousness, or even desperate, to combat depression, hyperactivity or obsessive compulsive disorder, explains the journal ” Nature “. However, some only got a showy burns on the forehead. It is the ultimate in “brain-hacking”.

Apparently are males between 20 and thirties, the most likely to use this technology is still being studied in the laboratory. Some studies suggest that transcranial direct current, in controlled laboratory conditions, electrical stimulation appears to improve memory and learning. In addition, it also seems effective to speed recovery after stroke when applied with rehabilitation, and depression.

Two recent studies highlight both. According to a small clinical study published in ScienceTranslational Medicine , the use of a painless electrical current applied to the brain, along with rehabilitation, can help accelerate motor recovery to people who have suffered a stroke, the most common cause of disability serious long – term. Another study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, suggests that novice drivers learn best manage a guided brainwaves of their expert colleagues aircraft.

In both cases, researchers have used to “transmit” a non-invasive technique called transcranial direct current stimulation.

TDCS applies an electric current (such as producing a battery, a stack or a dynamo) low intensity through electrodes arranged on the scalp. Although there is a great current loss on the scalp and skull, it seems that the current reaches the cerebral cortex is sufficient to exert their action on neurons.

Brain cells also work with electricity, they generate themselves moving ions through the cell membrane and creating a potential difference as in a stack (membrane potential).When tDCS reaches the surface of the cerebral cortex, neuronal modifies the transmembrane potential, varying the level of excitability and frequency modulating neuronal firing. So this technique is also known as a neuromodulator.

“The networks are surprisingly active cortical neurons susceptible to interference by electric fields. At the same time, noninvasive brain stimulation with weak, exogenous (transcranial stimulation DC) electric fields has experienced a renaissance because of the wide range of possible applications in the modulation of brain activity for the improvement and treatment of disorders cognitive brain, “explains Flavio Fröhlich, University of North Carolina, in an article published in “Dialogues in clinical neuroscience.”

Some neuroscientists believe that this technique has the potential to carry out early intervention in mental illness. However, today there is some confusion. While there are studies that suggest good results in cognitive functioning, some are not reproducible later. One of the possible causes is the difficulty of detailing what brain regions are being encouraged, given the limited spatial specificity of this method. Therefore, they want to take the time to understand how this technique works and figure out the best way to use it.

Another, which must not be ruled out, is the placebo effect. Both learning and the placebo effect have in common dopamine. This neurotransmitter is critical in learning, because it indicates that there is something to learn. And also plays a key role in the placebo effect, since it is generated with the expectation that something will happen in this case will improve cognitive function. And if there is an increased release of dopamine, you learn more easily …

Along with the current, as generated by a battery, it is also using alternating current, as it reaches our homes, to stimulate the brain. Some studies suggest that stimulating the brain of healthy people at a frequency of 0.75 Hz, which coincides with the delta waves of deep sleep, can enhance memory, which is consolidated at this stage of sleep.

Many neuroscientists have no doubt that in the future both techniques can be a good tool for cognitive health, because it will intervene early. At the moment a lot of work remains to be done. And better in the laboratory than at home, where in addition to burns, can cause brain damage, researchers warn.

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