29 August 2014

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Found To Improve Memory

(c) Copyright: EPFL, Blue Brain Project
A study by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine find that stimulating a part of the brain with electromagnetic pulses in a process called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation can improve memory.

The non-invasive process uses electrical current using magnetic pulses to target a region of the brain. This is the first time that memory functions of a brain can be manipulated without the use of surgery or of drugs.

By targeting a specific area of the brain in the hippocampus, they observed that TMS can be used to improve memory for events at least 24 hours after the stimulation is given.

The study, published in Science, used 16 healthy adults ages 21 to 40 (see video below). They received brain stimulation through Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) twenty minutes a day for five consecutive days. It was noted that the group performed better on memory tests as a result of the brain stimulation and that it took three days of TMS before they improved.

Neurostimulation is a process where neurons in the nervous system are stimulated to either restore functionality of a certain organ, control an organ, or induce/reduce a specific nerve signal within the system. This is done through micro-electrodes that deliver electrical signals to the neurons.

There are four types of neurostimulation; Brain Stimulation, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), and Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS). Each of these types have been used to alter/improve brain activity in the past.

This recent discovery is the first to show how electrical stimulation can improve new learning long after treatment and may help treat memory disorders resulting from stroke, Alzheimer's Disease and other types of brain injury.

28 August 2014

Walking Fish Polypterus Senegalus Offers Glimpse At Evolution

Scientists are studying Polypterus Senegalus, a fish that can move in land, to understand how ancient organisms managed to jump from swimming in the waters to walking into land.

Polypterus Senegalus is a fish from Africa that is able to breathe air, move in land (with their fins) and resembles prehistoric fishes that managed to evolve into tetrapods - amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The scientists studied the fish to learn how these fish move to learn the evolutionary processes that occurred 400 million years ago.

By raising the fish on land for nearly a year, they noted significant anatomical and behavioural changes. The fish walked more effectively and its biological behavior adapted to the process. The researchers hypothesized that the behavioural changes also reflect what may have occurred when fossil fish first walked with their fins on land.