So, if you decided to read this article, you want to improve your working memory, right? We all use working memory in our daily lives. Working memory, previously (and inaccurately) used to be called short-term memory. This type of memory is the storage system for information you’re actively working on, which means it’s easily accessible when needed. An example of working memory is reading a paragraph and remembering what the last sentence said as you’re reading the next sentence. Another example is when you’re playing Simon, a game where you have to remember the sequence of the colors presented and then press the colored buttons in the correct sequence. See how important working memory is? Well if you want to improve your working memory-look no further! All you have to do is stimulate your brain with electricity! It’s that easy!
As reported by PsyPost, researchers at Imperial College London studied the effects of applying an electrical current to someone’s brain, which affected a person’s oscillatory activity (a fancy term for brain waves) to where the electrical current and a person’s brain waves synchronized. Previous research mentioned in the research article, Externally induced frontoparietal synchronization modulates network dynamics and enhances working memory performance, (yikes that’s a mouthful), that the frontal and parietal brain regions control working memory. A person’s brain activity operates between 4-8Hz in these regions. This research hypothesized that if you apply an electrical current of this ideal range, it would result in a better functioning and therefore improved working memory.
The researchers tested their hypothesis on 10 participants to study the before and after effects of applying an electrical current when performing cognitive tasks, one of which was a verbal N-back task. This task is when participants are presented with a sequence of stimuli one at a time. Then, participants must say if the current stimulus is the same as a stimulus presented N trials ago. This task is basically what we use to remember what we just saw or heard (you can think of it as the “not as fun” version of Simon). When researchers applied the ideal electrical current so that the current had the same rhythm and timing as the participant’s brain waves, they found a significant improvement in reaction times on these cognitive tasks. If they applied an electrical current that was out of sync of the participant’s brain waves, then performance significantly decreased.
So what should you do when you want to remember the answers to a test you quickly crammed for or all the items on the grocery list you forgot at home? Just electrically stimulate your brain! If you do it at the correct Hz range, I see absolutely no downsides to this fool-proof technique!
Warning: The writer of this article is not liable for any injuries as a result of someone who tries to DIY brain electrodes to achieve an improved working memory
(Also, if you don’t know what Simon is, here’s a YouTube video of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YhVyt4q5HI)
Link to News Article: http://www.psypost.org/2017/03/buzzing-brain-electricity-can-boost-working-memory-48291
Link to Research Article: https://elifesciences.org/articles/22001