Can learning and long term memory be enhanced by brain stimulation?
Through a Purdue University Calumet Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering research project, two students—graduate enrollee Wenchao Lu and electrical engineering undergraduate/McNair Scholar Phillip Arteaga—are attempting to find out and, in the process, advance new knowledge.
The students are researching the effects of low current, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on learning and long term memory improvement. Their research, which could prove helpful in delaying dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, was reported July 8 on the WGN News at Nine TV broadcast.
WGN health reporter Katharin Czink’s story can be accessed at Purdue Calumet student researchers [Opens in New Window].
Building on previous research
Lu and Arteaga were interviewed on campus July 2 for the news segment.
Previous research has substantiated that application of a low current of tDCS to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) safely and effectively enhances functions of the motor cortex and working memory. In follow-up, the Purdue Calumet student researchers are exploring the effects of tDCS on DLPFC for learning and long-term memory improvement.
Early, promising results
Initially, 14 Purdue Calumet students participated as subjects over a four-week period in a memory recall study of 120 Chinese typescript characters. The subjects were randomly divided into active stimulation and sham stimulation groups. Special caps were designed and worn to generate a constant current of 1.2mA intensity stimulation.
Though just one set of data has been recorded thus far for long-term memory, results indicate the active stimulation group performed better than the sham group.
Protocol, subject management approved
All subjects indicated they felt no difference between the active and sham conditions. Likewise, no subject has complained of uncomfortable symptoms. The Purdue University Institutional Review Board approved the experimental protocol and subject management.
In the study’s next phase, more subjects will be recruited and other Chinese characters added.
Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Bin Chen has served as the students’ research supervisor. In Professor Chen’s campus absence, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Constantin Apostoaia attended the July 2 recording of the TV interview .