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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 13:43 GMT
Computer boosts memory by 10%
The technique teaches patients to control the brain
Scientists believe they may have found a way to improve our memory by as much as 10%.

Researchers at Imperial College London have used a technique called neurofeedback to train people to remember more clearly.

It works by showing people their own brainwaves on a computer screen, and teaching them how to control them.

This is the first time we have shown a link between the use of neurofeedback, and improvements in memory

Dr David Vernon
Doctors believe it could one day be used as a treatment for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, epilepsy and other similar conditions affecting the brain.

Brain activity is monitored through sensors attached to the scalp. The patient can see the brainwaves on a screen.

This enables them to see how different moods and behaviour affects the brain. They are then taught how to control their brain activity and correct or stabilise it.

Memory tests

Dr David Vernon tested the technique on 40 people. They each had a memory test before and after their neurofeedback session.

They were presented with a series of words which related to specific categories. They were then given the categories and asked to recall related words.

Those who underwent neurofeedback were able to recall 82% of the words after their session. This compares to just 71% prior to the treatment.

In comparison, a group of people who did not undergo neurofeedback saw their recall rate increase from 73% to just 75%.

Dr Vernon said: "Previous research has indicated that neurofeedback can be used to help treat a number of conditions including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, epilepsy and alcoholism by training particular aspects of brain activity.

"But this is the first time we have shown a link between the use of neurofeedback, and improvements in memory."

Professor John Gruzelier, from Imperial College London at Charing Cross Hospital said further study is needed.

But he suggested the technique could help patients who have brain damage or memory problems.

"Neurofeedback has been proven to be effective in altering brain activity, but the extent to which such alterations can influence behaviour are still unknown.

"Further tests are needed to confirm this, but if neurofeedback can positively influence the cognitive performance of healthy individuals, as we have previously shown on attention and musical performance, it opens up the possibility that such treatment may be beneficial for those suffering from cognitive deficits".

The study is published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology.

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05 Nov 02 | Health
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