A Mental Time Travel
A study conducted by the Northwestern Medicine achieved improvements in the rates of individuals remembering complex but real events by administering Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) on the brain network in charge memory.
The researchers had the participants watch some daily activity videos in order to demonstrate how our memory functions during daily tasks. The result of the study points out that it is possible to measure and manipulate memory types.
Of the researchers, Melissa Hebscher said “On a daily basis, we need to remember complex events that include a number of elements like different places, people, and objects. We were able to demonstrate that it is possible to develop the memory for complex and realistic events by using the brain stimulation in a safe manner with no need for a surgical intervention.”
Having been published in the journal Current Biology, this study was carried out in a controlled laboratory setting on healthy young adults. This study shows that the TMS method can be used in order to develop the memory in the cases of memory loss that stems from brain damage and neurological disorders.
In this study, the subjects, whose brains were scanned by means of fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) right after the TMS sessions, carried out simultaneous memory duties. Instead of pictures or word lists, the participants were made to watch video clips that copy how memory functions on a daily basis in a more accurate manner (e.g. folding the laundry, taking out the garbage).
Following the TMS sessions, the participants gave more accurate answers to the questions regarding the contents of the video clips, such as the color of the shirt worn by an actor, or determining the presence of a tree in the background.
In the same study, it can be seen that TMS makes it possible to reinstate the memories in a higher quality. As stated by Hebscher, the reinstatement process coincides with the time when the brain repeats or relives an original incident, and after the administration of TMS, the brain activity of a number of people in the process of watching the videos was quite similar to the brain activity that they had when they remembered the same video.
Hebscher says “This is why remembering can feel like a “mental time travel”. Our findings show that the stimulation improves this “mental time travel” in the brain, while developing the memory accuracy. These findings are effective in terms of developing safe and efficient ways to improve the real-world memory.”
Hebscher, M., Kragel, J. E., Kahnt, T., & Voss, J. L. (2021). Enhanced reinstatement of naturalistic event memories due to hippocampal-network-targeted stimulation. Current Biology, 31(7), 1428-1437.