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Improving Memory with Magnets

By McGill University | Mar 27, 2017

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The ability to remember sounds, and manipulate them in our minds, is incredibly important to our daily lives — without it we would not be able to understand a sentence, or do simple arithmetic. New research is shedding light on how sound memory works in the brain, and is even demonstrating a means to improve it.

Scientists previously knew that a neural network of the brain called the dorsal stream was responsible for aspects of auditory memory. Inside the dorsal stream were rhythmic electrical pulses called theta waves, yet the role of these waves in auditory memory were until recently a complete mystery.

To learn precisely the relationship between theta waves and auditory memory, and to see how memory could be boosted, researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute of McGill University gave seventeen individuals auditory memory tasks that required them to recognize a pattern of tones when it was reversed. Listeners performed this task while being recorded with a combination of magnetoencephalography (MEG) and electroencephalography (EEG). The MEG/EEG revealed the amplitude and frequency signatures of theta waves in the dorsal stream while the subjects worked on the memory tasks. It also revealed where the theta waves were coming from in the brain.

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