Ever faced people on the road, talked to them even as acquaintances but still failed to recall their names. It's a common phenomenon, researchers say, and a new study has found a way to improve the recall of proper names.
"We know a lot about how to make people's memory worse, but we don't know very much about how to make people's memory better," said Temple psychologist Ingrid Olson.
"These findings hold promise because they point to possible therapeutic treatments for memory rehabilitation following a stroke or other neurological insult," she added.
For the study, Olson delivered electric stimulation to the subjects' anterior temporal lobes while looking at photos of known faces using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a technique by which small electric currents (e.g., 1-2 milliamps) are applied to the scalp via electrodes.
Her earlier studies suggest that the anterior temporal lobes are critically involved in the retrieval of people's names.
"As we age, the connections between the neurons in our brains weaken," said Olson.
"In our study, tDCS works by increasing the likelihood that the right neurons will fire at the moment when the research subject is trying to retrieve a particular name," she said.
"One question for further research is whether or not repeating tDCS may lead to longer lasting effects."
The study appears this month in the journal Neuropsychologia.