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Coming soon: Brain 'shock' treatments to improve memory, battle Alzheimer’s

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Coming soon: Brain 'shock' treatments to improve memory, battle Alzheimer’s

University of North Carolina's School of Medicine has given the field of neurotherapeutic a real jolt. Findings from a new paper published by assistant professor of psychiatry Flavio Frohlich and others shows that using electricity to stimulate brain waves during sleep can lead to improved memory performance.


You may be hesitant to believe that pumping volts into your brain would yield anything positive, but Frohlich assures that not only is it safe, in early testing, it's proven an effective way to stimulate the sleep-time process in which your brain consolidates the knowledge you've absorbed in a day's time.

"We targeted specific brain rhythms and used very weak electric current stimulation to enhance or boost a given brain rhythm. Specifically, we were interested in a brain rhythm which is called sleep spindles," Frohlich tells Circa.

"Sleep spindles enable us to consolidate information we've encountered during the day and thereby transfers that knowledge to long-term storage or long-term memory in the brain."

The way we're doing transcranial current stimulation is incredibly safe ....The amount of electric current is very weak.
Flavio Frohlich, PhD, UNC School of Medicine

The testing was done on healthy individuals - 16 men who showed a strengthening of memory performance after stimulation - but Frohlich says the goal is to ultimately utilize this special type of transcranial current stimulation to help patients with conditions like Alzheimer's or schizophrenia.

"[I'm hoping for] a series of carefully done studies by us and others where we can really push out towards becoming a neurotherapeutic, FDA-cleared [method] and accordingly help patients that we can't help them today," Frohlich explains.

As for whether we'll all soon be hitting the sack with marketed versions of memory-strengthening transcranial current stimulation headbands, that's certainly not a goal of Frohlich's.

"Overall, I'm a little bit concerned about brain gadgets or neural gadgets, because I think there's a concern of making promises that aren't quite scientifically grounded."

It's a shame; "Remember Different" could've been a resounding marketing campaign.

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