Stimulation of the Left Pre-Frontal Cortex Can Enhance Memory Retrieval!

Andrew Westphal and colleagues from the Rissman Memory Lab have found (see reference below) that the application of weak electrical current to the left prefrontal cortex can boost people’s ability to retrieve episodic memories by over 15%. Using a technique known as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), they showed that the application of anodal current — thought to increase cortical excitability — significantly improved the likelihood that participants would be able to correctly identify which words they had studied one day prior, as well as to successfully recollect the contextual details of these memories. When sham stimulation was applied, no significant change in task performance was observed. Moreover, the cognitive enhancement effect appeared to be specific to memory, as there was no reliable impact on behavior when the same participants performed comparably challenging tasks of analogical reasoning task and visuospatial perception. These findings showcase the critical role that the left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex plays in episodic memory retrieval and highlight the potential to non-invasively enhance people’s access to past memories that might have otherwise been forgotten. For a report on these exciting findings go here

Westphal, A.J., Chow, T.E., Ngoy, C., Zuo, X., Liao, V., Storozuk. L.A., Peters, M.A.K., Wu, A.D., and Rissman, J. (2019). Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation to left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex selectively improves source memory retrieval. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 31(9), 1380-1391.