Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Associative memory enhanced by brain stimulation.

Wang et al. do a proof that the hippocampus facilitates associative memory formation in humans by interacting with distributed brain regions. Here is a description of their approach (sufficiently sophisticated that one will probably not be seeing DIY self help kits on the internet anytime soon!):
We ...developed methods to modulate cortical-hippocampal brain networks in healthy adults (n = 16 subjects) in order to test their role in associative memory. We focused modulatory stimulation on the lateral parietal cortex component of a well-characterized cortical-hippocampal network on the basis of hypothesized interactions between hippocampus and lateral parietal cortex in memory as well as robust functional connectivity between these regions, which is likely mediated by lateral parietal projections to retrosplenial and parahippocampal cortex. We defined a target within the left hippocampus for each subject and used resting-state fMRI to identify a subject-specific left lateral parietal location that demonstrated high functional connectivity with the hippocampal target. Noninvasive high-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) was delivered to the parietal location for 5 consecutive days on the basis of evidence that rTMS can induce changes in connectivity within stimulated networks and that such effects can increase over multiple-day stimulation sessions.
Here is their abstract:
The influential notion that the hippocampus supports associative memory by interacting with functionally distinct and distributed brain regions has not been directly tested in humans. We therefore used targeted noninvasive electromagnetic stimulation to modulate human cortical-hippocampal networks and tested effects of this manipulation on memory. Multiple-session stimulation increased functional connectivity among distributed cortical-hippocampal network regions and concomitantly improved associative memory performance. These alterations involved localized long-term plasticity because increases were highly selective to the targeted brain regions, and enhancements of connectivity and associative memory persisted for ~24 hours after stimulation. Targeted cortical-hippocampal networks can thus be enhanced noninvasively, demonstrating their role in associative memory.

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