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Pulses to the brain bring memory gains

Cooperation in regions of the brain improves associations between words and faces

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1:00pm, August 29, 2014

MIND MELD  Precisely placed magnetic pulses to the head encourage brain regions to work together and can boost a person's memory, a new study finds.

Zaps to the head can enhance people’s memory by coaxing brain regions to work together. The brain stimulation method called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, helped healthy people recall words paired with faces, neuroscientist Joel Voss of Northwestern University’s medical school in Chicago and colleagues report in the Aug. 29 Science

In TMS, an electromagnetic coil placed on the head produces small electrical currents that stimulate nerve cells close to the brain’s surface. A logical location for stimulation would be the hippocampus, a brain structure important for memory. But the hippocampus is buried too deeply in the brain to be reached with TMS. The researchers instead turned to a spot near the top left surface of the brain’s wrinkly outer layer that’s known to work closely with the hippocampus.

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