A Moment of Science

Magnets and Memory

Researchers are using transcranial magnetic stimulation to learn more about how magnetic fields affect areas of the brain associated with memory formation.

Old woman's hands

Photo: *Ann Gordon (flickr)

TMS could become an important in treating Alzheimer's and other memory-related diseases

Having trouble remembering where you left your keys?

Perhaps magnetic therapy is in your future.

Researchers at the City University of New York are using transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, to learn more about how magnetic fields affect areas of the brain associated with memory formation.

This process involves using a magnetic coil to generate electromagnetic fields in the brain tissue. The magnetic fields TMS generates activate and deactivate certain groups of neurons responsible for memory and learning. It has been used in the past to study and treat mental disorders from schizophrenia to depression, and has also proven an effective therapy for rehabilitating stroke victims.

Scientists have discovered further evidence that the stimulation of a magnetic coil encourages the development of the vital neurons associated with memory in mice.

In one study, researchers gave mice TMS treatments for five days, and then tested the cellular development rates in targeted areas of the brain. The test results revealed that neurons and stem cells in the hippocampus both responded positively to the treatment by increasing their proliferation rates.

If the same results can be obtained from human trials of TMS, this procedure could become an important tool for treating memory-related diseases like Alzheimer’s, which result from neuron loss in the hippocampus. Fostering the development of stem cells in this area could delay the onset of such maladies by strengthening essential connections within the brain tissue.

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