Scientists are now one step closer to finding novel approaches to help enhance learning and treat patients with memory problems and learning disabilities.
A team at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has provided fundamental new insights into the way our brain copes with the challenge of learning multiple skills and making multiple memories.
Their findings suggest that specific brain areas actively orchestrate competition between memories, and that by disrupting targeted brain areas through transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), you can preserve memory-and prevent forgetting.
Edwin Robertson, MD, DPhil, an Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and BIDMC, together with BIDMC neurologist and coauthor Daniel Cohen, MD, studied a group of 120 college-age students who performed two concurrent memory tests.
The first involved a finger-tapping motor skills task, the second a declarative memory task in which participants memorized a series of words.
In the second part of the study, Robertson and Cohen administered TMS following the initial testing. TMS is a noninvasive technique that uses a magnetic simulator to generate a magnetic field that can create a flow of current in the brain.
In this case, the researchers targeted two specific brain regions, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the primary motor cortex.
They discovered that by applying TMS to specific brain areas, they were able to reduce the interference and competition between the motor skill and word-list tasks and both memories remained intact.
The study has been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.