“The entorhinal cortex is the golden gate to the brain’s memory mainframe,” explained senior author Dr. Itzhak Fried, professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Every visual and sensory experience that we eventually commit to memory funnels through that doorway to the hippocampus. Our brain cells must send signals through this hub in order to form memories that we can later consciously recall.”
Researchers at UCLA’s School of Medicine published a study claiming that deep stimulation of a certain part of the brain during certain activity enhances memory. The study could be a crucial find for people with Alzheimer and those living with multiple sclerosis. As reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists implanted electrodes in seven epileptic subjects while they played a video game during which they learned destinations within virtual environments. During these “spatial learning tasks” such as picking up and dropping people off in taxi’s, they were given focal electrical stimulation in the entorhinal. The entorhinal is the part of the cerebral cortex in the medial temporal lobe that serves as the main cortical input to the hippocampus. It plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness.
The results? “When we stimulated the nerve fibers in the patients’ entorhinal cortex during learning, they later recognized landmarks and navigated the routes more quickly,” said Dr. Fried. “They even learned to take shortcuts, reflecting improved spatial memory.” Although the preliminary results provide hope for a memory enhancing mechanism, Fried warns that the study sample was small and that the results should be interpreted with caution.
Future studies will determine whether deep-brain stimulation can enhance other types of recall, writes Science Daily, such as verbal and autobiographical memories. No adverse effects of the stimulation were reported by the seven patients.