Brain Stimulation Improves Learning and Memory

Brain Stimulation Improves Learning and Memory

Effective treatments are lacking for the millions of people suffering from learning and memory deficits caused by problems including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and traumatic brain injury. Deep brain stimulation can alter activity in disordered neural circuits and therefore represents a potentially useful therapy. A study led by Emad Eskandar, M.D., and published online on August 30 in Brain reports for the first time that brief, timed bursts of deep brain electrical stimulation can enhance learning in humans. Six conscious epilepsy patients were implanted with depth electrodes to determine where seizures were arising. Electrical stimulation of the brain’s caudate nucleus (known to play an important role in learning) improved patients’ ability to learn an association between images presented to them and pressing a keyboard button. The findings mirror results from Dr. Eskandar’s previous studies in experimental animals, suggesting that the caudate nucleus is a promising target for enhancing recovery after stroke or traumatic brain injury. Dr. Eskandar is professor and chair of the Leo M. Davidoff Department of Neurological Surgery at Einstein and Montefiore, professor in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and holds the Jeffrey P. Bergstein Chair in Neurological Surgery at Einstein.