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Brain function

Deep Brain Stimulation Inexplicably Restores Vivid Memories

Saturday, September 06, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: brain function, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) Scientists searching for a way to suppress appetite accidentally discovered a way to trigger vivid memories. The researchers hope to develop the technique into a treatment for Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published in Annals of Neurology.

Researchers at the Toronto Western Hospital in Ontario, Canada, were operating on an obese man in an attempt to find a part of the brain that could suppress the appetite when stimulated electrically. When the scientists stimulated the hypothalamus, which has been associated with hunger, the man suddenly experienced a vivid memory from 30 years before.

"He reported the experience of being in a park with friends from when he was around 20 years old and, as the intensity of stimulation increased, the details became more vivid. He recognized his girlfriend [from the time] ... The scene was in color. People were wearing identifiable clothes and were talking, but he could not decipher what they were saying," the researchers wrote.

The researchers implanted a device in his brain that would constantly stimulate that section of the hypothalamus. Similar devices have been implanted in other parts of the brain to control tremor in Parkinson's disease.

After three weeks of stimulation at a level low enough to avoid triggering the park memory again, the man's performance on two memory tests improved significantly.

While the hypothalamus has not previously been associated with memory, it borders a part of the brain that is known to influence memory and emotion.

The researchers are now testing the device to see if it can stem the memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease.

"It is a very effective treatment for the motor problems associated with Parkinson's disease and it has been used on 40,000 people," Lozano said. "We are in the early stages of using it with Alzheimer's patients and we don't know if it will work. We want to assess if we can reach the memory circuits and drive improvement. It is a novel approach to dealing with this problem."

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