In a ray of hope for dementia patients, researchers, led by one of Indian origin, have found that stimulating the brain though minute amounts of electricity enhances the growth of new brain cells and improves short and long-term memory.
Known as deep brain stimulation, the therapeutic procedure of sending electrical impulses to specific areas of the brain is already used in some parts of the world to treat various neurological conditions such as tremors or Dystonia, which is characterized by involuntary muscle contractions and spasms.
"The findings from the research clearly show the potential of enhancing the growth of brain cells using deep brain stimulation," said Ajai Vyas, assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore). "Around 60% of patients do not respond to regular anti-depressant treatments and our research opens new doors for more effective treatment options."
New brain cells, or neurons, can be formed by stimulating the front part of the brain which is involved in memory retention using minute amounts of electricity, the findings showed. The increase in brain cells reduces anxiety and depression, and promotes improved learning, and boosts overall memory formation and retention. The findings open new opportunities for developing novel treatment solutions for patients suffering from memory loss due to dementia-related conditions such as Alzheimer's and even Parkinson's disease, the researchers noted.
The research was conducted using middle-aged rats, where electrodes which send out minute micro-electrical impulses were implanted in the brains. The rats underwent a few memory tests before and after stimulation, and displayed positive results in memory retention, even after 24 hours.
"Extensive studies have shown that rats' brains and memory systems are very similar to humans," explained Vyas, who is also an alumnus of the Delhi-based Indian Agricultural Research Institute.
This discovery was published in the open-access scientific journal, eLife