Using Magnets to Repair the Brain.

Last week the scholarly journal Science reported the findings of neuroscientist Joel Voss, and his colleagues at Northwestern University’s medical school in Chicago, and their research into using electromagnetic pulses to repair the brain.

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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation being administered to a test subject.

Treating patients suffering from memory loss, a series of magnetic pulses to the brain proved effective in generating repairs. The brain stimulation method called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, helped healthy people recall words paired with faces

“In TMS, an electromagnetic coil placed on the head produces small electrical currents that stimulate nerve cells close to the brain’s surface. A logical location for stimulation would be the hippocampus, a brain structure important for memory. But the hippocampus is buried too deeply in the brain to be reached with TMS. The researchers instead turned to a spot near the top left surface of the brain’s wrinkly outer layer that’s known to work closely with the hippocampus.

In the study, 16 healthy subjects underwent functional MRI scans to pinpoint the exact coordinates of this spot. Participants received stimulation at the brain location for 20 minutes for five days. About 24 hours after their last stimulation, participants saw pictures of faces paired with spoken words. About a minute after first learning the pairs, participants better remembered which word went with each face than when they hadn’t been stimulated, the team found.” (science news.org)

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Tesla_circa_1890This latest discovery is a continuation of the electrotherapy work pioneered by Steampunk hero Nikola Tesla. Once when Tesla was struck by a taxi in New York, instead of visiting the hospital, he dragged himself to his hotel room and administered a series of electrotherapy treatments to mend his fractures and contusions. In his typical innocent fashion, Tesla never patented the device, but did share his findings with technical journals in 1891, and in 1898 gave a presentation to the American Electro-Therapeutic Association in which he revealed details and drawings of his apparatus that became known as the Tesla coil.

 

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