Stimulating a region of the brain known as the lateral temporal cortex can improve memory, shows a study published in Nature Communications this week.
Previous research has shown that the brain’s activity during an experience can be used to predict whether or not that experience will become a memory that can be recalled later. In this study, Michael Kahana and colleagues recorded neural activity while 25 patients (undergoing clinical monitoring for epilepsy) read lists of 12 words they were asked to remember. The authors gave these activity data to a machine-learning algorithm, which was able to learn exactly how the brain of each individual responded to the words and could determine if the participants were likely to forget them.
In further experiments, when the machine-learning algorithm identified that the participant’s brain was not properly encoding the memory, a part of the brain called the lateral temporal cortex was electrically stimulated to rescue memory encoding. The authors found that this process improved patients’ ability to recall the words by 15%.
Taken together, these results show that it is possible to identify moments of poor memory encoding and that stimulating the lateral temporal cortex can improve memory. This suggests a potential therapeutic approach to treat diseases that include memory dysfunction.