Can a handheld PDA be used to boost your memory?
in the not-too-distant future.
Really, it’s not as far-fetched as you might think. A recent study suggests that it’s entirely possible that a PDA could be used like a biofeedback machine to train people by using the latest finding in brain signals.
Telltale brain signals predict memory
London’s University College neuroscientist Emrah Duzel and her team discovered signals in the brain that predict whether an experience will be remembered.
The researchers looked at how the brain prepares to process information—instead of looking at how the information is being processed. In doing so they found that there was a telltale signal in a region of the brain associated with memory formation.
This signal, occurring in the medial temporal lobe, appears to precede the formation of any type of memory.
Favorable brain state for encoding memory
According to Duzel, this state “prepares the memory system for a relevant event.” The study, which appeared in Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (vol. 106, No. 11, March 16, 2009), suggests that the signal could be like a switch that determines when the brain enters into a state that is favorable for encoding a memory.
In the study, 24 subjects performed a battery of memory tests while magnetic fluctuations in their brains were recorded. Interestingly enough, a fraction of a second before the test subjects processed a prompt that they were later able to recall, their brains displayed heightened levels of theta oscillations levitrakamagra.com. This is a pattern of brain waves that are typically observed during REM sleep (when dreaming occurs) and moments of heightened alertness.
The theta waves are localized in the hippocampus, which play important roles in memory formation and spatial navigation. The hippocampus is located inside the medial temporal lobe. And Duzel’s team traced the theta oscillations to the medial temporal lobe.
Essentially, what this means is that, to some extent, it could be possible to predict whether a person will remember a word even before she’s seen it.
Since the subjects were more likely to remember information when theta activation is high, Duzel suggests that by training people to enhance that particular amplitude, they’d be more likely to remember information.
Brain waves the key to boosting memory?
So a biofeedback approach might work. People could learn how to control their brain waves if, for instance, they saw them on a computer screen. There are already some computer audio programs that claim to help affect brain rhythms, including theta waves, with sound. But these are yet unproven.
But the hardware necessary for recording electrophysiological signals is rapidly becoming more mobile. There’s every reason to believe that it could be part of a PDA–and easily boost your memory!
Until then, you can sharpen your brain with iPhone’s free app, the Brain Tuner.
Speed Brain, a brain fitness game from Lumosity.com, is also available on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Palm Pre Phone.