AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 2, 2018


Magnetic Brain Stimulation Can Bring Back Stowed Memories

It’s clear that your working memory – which holds attention on small things of short-term importance – works, or you wouldn’t be able to remember a new phone number long enough to dial it. Describing how it works, however – how the brain determines what to keep in mind, and what to set aside but keep handy for quick access – is a work in progress. Work that may sharpen our theory of the mind and even help people suffering from schizophrenia or depression. “A lot of mental illness is associated with the inability to choose what to think about,” says Brad Postle, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “What we’re taking are first steps toward looking at the mechanisms that give us control over what we think about.” Postle’s lab is challenging the idea that working memory remembers things through sustained brain activity. They caught brains tucking less-important information away somewhere beyond the reach of the tools that typically monitor brain activity – and then they snapped that information back into active attention with magnets. 

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