This technique works by applying magnetic fields to certain brain areas. In turn, this affects the central nervous system. Being non-invasive means it operates completely outside the body.
For the study, researchers at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine recruited 16 adults between 64 and 80 years old. The hippocampus is the brain area that shrinks with age and that previous research has associated with age-related memory loss. However, it is too deep in the brain for the magnetic fields to reach it, so they used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to target a superficial brain area in the parietal lobe that connects with the hippocampus instead.
"We stimulated where brain activity is synchronized to the hippocampus, suggesting that these regions talk to each other," explained Aneesha Nilakantan, the first author of the study.
The team applied TMS to this brain area for 20 minutes every day for five consecutive days. Stimulating this area enhanced the function of brain areas essential for memory that are disrupted by aging. They also evaluated the memory of each participant using standard memory tests before and after the intervention. The tests comprised of remembering random links between various things, such as objects, places, or words.
After the TMS treatment, the elderly participants scored the same as the young adults. Typically, without the TMS intervention, older adults would only get a score below 40 percent while young adults would get 55 percent of the associations correct. The team also carried out a placebo stimulation condition, but it did not improve memory.
"There is no previous evidence that the specific memory impairments and brain dysfunction seen in older adults can be rescued using brain stimulation or any other method," said Joel Voss, lead researcher of the study.
Certain lifestyle changes can also help improve and preserve your memory even as you age. Here are some of them:
Read more articles on how to keep your brain sharp even later in life at BrainHealthBoost.com.