Female doctor assisting a senior woman in the street. (Getty Images)

For many years, people have turned to electric shock therapy for a variety of ailments—most notably for the treatment of mental illnesses. Now, a study shows that targeted electric shocks to the brain—through an implant—could eventually bring relief to those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia by improving their memories. Based on this technology, researchers are also developing a prosthesis that would enhance your brain’s natural abilities.

Memory Boosting Implants

Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) implanted what they call a “memory prosthesis” in 20 volunteers—the first human trial of its kind. These participants had previously had electrodes implanted in their brains for epileptic treatment, so the memory system did not necessitate an additional surgery. Through the electrodes, the implant delivers small electric shocks to part of the brain most involved in memory and learning—the hippocampus. The shocks are devised to mimic the pattern of healthy brain activity and the way humans process memories.

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[DIGEST: CNN, American Heart Association, Framingham Heart Study, NBC, Washington Post, Newsheart, Stroke Association, USAToday, CBS]

According to new research, a possible connection exists between soft drinks with artificial sweeteners and the risk of stroke or dementia. This latest discovery relies upon an underlying long-term study of people’s beverage habits during the target age-ranges for stroke and dementia. While there’s a need for more research on the issue, the preliminary findings suggest a need for caution when choosing diet soda.

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[DIGEST: IFLS, blog.alzheimers.org.uk, academic.oup.com, BBC (a, b), Science]

A study published in April 2017 shows two drugs—one already on the market and one being tested for cancer treatment—may be able to stop the progression of certain neurodegenerative diseases, and perhaps even improve disease-related symptoms. The drugs work by preventing a natural, but potentially destructive, self-defense on the cellular level. This protective response by the body, if not kept in check by the drugs, leads to the neurological symptoms, and eventually death.

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[DIGEST: Forbes, iCan, Motley Fool, Observer]

Marijuana use is commonly believed to impair short-term memory. Ironically, however, it also contains compounds that could preserve long-term memory and provide protective benefits to the aging brain.

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DIGEST: [HuffPo UK, Science Daily, DailyMail]

By the time patients are diagnosed with Alzheimer's, most will already have experienced memory loss and motor-skill decline. But now, researchers at University College London (UCL) have perfected a cutting-edge form of PET (positron emission tomography) scanning, called amyloid PET, that allows them to use radioactive tracers in the brain to spot the telltale proteins that build up in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and other dementias, as much as 15 years before any symptoms.

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[DIGEST: The Scientist, Technology Review, Inverse, Science]

Can the underlying cause of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s be traced back to our own immune system?

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[DIGEST: New York Times, NBC]

Nancy Reagan, wife of former President Ronald Reagan and the 40th First Lady of the United States, died Sunday morning at her home in Los Angeles. She was 94.

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