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Transcranial Brain Stimulation May Improve Cognition and Memory

By Marie Benz MD FAAD | May 7, 2017

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MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Michael CTrumbo
Sandia National Laboratories
Department of Psychology
Psychology Clinical Neuroscience Center
The University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The impetus for this study can be found in claims made by several commercial enterprises that you can get cognitive benefits from brain training games intended to enhance working memory (the amount of information you can hold and manipulate in your mind at one time). However, a burgeoning body of research shows working memory training games often do not provide the benefits claimed. Research led by my colleague Laura Matzen shows evidence that working memory training may actually impair other kinds of memory.

A key concept in demonstrating improvement of the working memory system is task transfer – if working memory has been improved, then that improvement should be evident when attempting tasks aside from the trained task, to the extent that these new tasks utilize working memory. Brain stimulation combined with working memory training might work when training by itself falls short because stimulation allows for manipulation of brain plasticity in brain regions that are relevant to working memory task performance. If you’re improving connectivity in a brain region involved in working memory, then you should get transfer to other tasks to the extent that they rely on that same brain region. When you’re having people do tasks in the absence of brain stimulation, it’s not clear if you’re getting this general improvement in working memory brain areas. You might be getting very selective, task kind of improvements due to use of task-specific strategy development.

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