When, in the middle of a conversation, I forget a word I need – usually a noun – I lament that I am not a comedy writer. If I were any good at that, there is fun to be had with a sketch of two old folks trying to have a chat while every third or fourth word won't come to mind.
(Some would call such a sketch ageist, but not me.)
It happens to me every day (while I write, too) and multiplies during three or four days following chemotherapy when “chemo brain” is at its worst. Sometimes the entire idea or concept of what I'm trying to say disappears.
Recently, researchers at Boston University tested the memories of the brains of people older than 60 and those of a similar group of people in their twenties.
Unsurprisingly, the younger subjects did better,” reported MIT Technology Review.
“Then participants were fitted with an electrode-covered cap that stimulated two areas of the brain (the temporal and prefrontal cortex) with electricity for 25 minutes in a way that made the brain waves fall into sync.
“When the groups were tested again, the participants who had been stimulated were much improved in the tests—and were as good as the 20-year-olds. The effect lasted for at least 50 minutes, when measurements were stopped.”
One of the researchers, Dr. Robert Reinhard, said they can bring back a more superior working memory function that the elder group had when they were younger:
"'This is important because the global population is rapidly ageing, and the elderly struggle with many real-world activities that critically rely on their memories,' Reinhard told the BBC.
“These included 'recognizing human faces, navigating the physical environment, remembering to take their medication and making financial decisions,' he said.”
Here's some really good news for us old folks: Reinhard told the BBC:
”...the largest improvements appear in the people with the greatest deficit at baseline...people who are struggling the most."
Another researchers have reported similar results including this one from a Fox News story:
”Dr. Barry Gordon, a professor of neurology and cognitive science at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore...
"It's a superb first step" toward demonstrating a way to improve mental performance, said Gordon, who was not involved in the new study.”
Others are not so sure:
”Dorothy Bishop, a professor of developmental neuropsychology from the University of Oxford, says: 'It would be premature to extrapolate the findings to everyday functioning in individuals with clinically significant memory problems.
"'There is no indication that any beneficial effects of stimulation persist beyond the experimental session.
"'Considerably more research would need to be done before concluding that this method had clinical application.'"
No doubt Bishop is right to be cautious with these preliminary findings, but as someone who reads a lot of reports of early research results, I wouldn't trash this one. It has interesting possibilities including uses for dementia patients.
Meanwhile, I'm sure interested. If the brain stimulation were available now, I'd be first on line because...
Well, damn. What was it I wanted to say???
What about you – would you be on line with me? You can read more details about the research by following the links above.