Deep Brain Stimulation Boosts Memory

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Deep Brain Stimulation Boosts Memory

Studies in animals suggest deep brain stimulation may even spur new nerve growth. But, said Black, "you'd have to catch people at a time when there was still some capacity to regenerate," meaning very early in the Alzheimer's disease progression.

Dr. Jeffrey Noebels, a professor of neurology at Baylor College of Medicine, said the idea that memory storage and retrieval could be electronically enhanced "is fascinating." But "just as in drug testing, extreme care must be exercised to avoid unleashing undesirable and lasting effects arising from the very plasticity and rewiring of the brain that is likely to arise," he said.

Noebels said stimulating the brain's memory center could trigger a seizure, spawning a "downward, toxic spiral of neural hyperactivity, axon rewiring and cell death in the very circuits we would like to preserve."

"My fear is, in early stages of Alzheimer's, continuous stimulation of the entorhinal cortex could actually be too much too soon," he said.

Fried agreed that caution is critical in considering deep brain stimulation as a treatment for people with memory loss from brain damage or disease, but said the possibility signaled "a new era" in medicine.

"Creating this type of interface with areas of the brain may be used to really augment impaired function in neurological patients," he said.

ABC News' Dr. Daphne Robakis contributed to this story.

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