The accidental discovery came during an experiment to suppress an obese mans appetite by using a technique called deep-brain stimulation, which involves stimulating parts of the brain with an electric current.
Instead of losing appetite, the patient was suddenly able to recall in immense detail a moment spent in a park with a friend 30 years earlier. More tests revealed his ability to learn was dramatically improved when the current was switched on and his brain stimulated. According to lead researcher Andres Lozano of the Toronto Western Hospital in Canada, This is the first time that anyone has had electrodes implanted in the brain which have been shown to improve memory.
Were driving the activity of the brain by increasing its sensitivity, turning up the volume of the memory circuits. Any event that involves the memory circuits is more likely to be stored and retained, he added.
Lozano said a 50-year old obese man turned to the brain surgery as a last resort. The treatment was unsuccessful but while the researchers were identifying potential appetite suppressant points in the hypothalamusthe part of the brain associated with hunger the man suddenly began to say that memory was flooding back.
The researchers are now applying the technique in the first trial of the treatment in patients with Alzheimers.