In a project funded by the United States Department of Defence, scientists sought to better understand the process of 'memory consolidation'. According to a new results published in JNeurosci, non-invasive brain stimulation overnight can help improve memory.
The hippocampus (the region of the brain that is responsible for the consolidation of short-term and long-term memory) transfers memories to the neocortex (the part responsible for higher-order brain functions) while these areas synchronise during sleep.
A team from the University of New Mexico along with Nicholas Ketz and Praveen Pilly, wanted to accelerate this natural process by stimulating the brain during sleep.
The experiment involved participants being trained and tested on detecting potentially threatening hidden objects and people including explosive devices and enemy snipers.
Subjects then received brain stimulation overnight at a sleep laboratory. Results showed an improved performance in detecting targets in new but similar situations compared to those who didn't undergo the overnight therapy. Scientists attributed this to an 'integration of recent experience into a more robust and general memory.'
Researchers suggest memory improvements were related to 'stimulation-induced neural changes.' The non-invasive treatment has the team of authors especially excited.