Neurostimulation patch aims to improve working memory

Posted Aug 20, 2019 by Tim Sandle
A wearable patch has been invented, designed to improve working memory. This is a neurostimulation device which works on the prefrontal cortex through electrical stimulation.
A neuropsychologist points to a brain scan showing the brain activity of a paedophile at the Hudding...
A neuropsychologist points to a brain scan showing the brain activity of a paedophile at the Huddinge hospital near Stockholm
Jonathan Nackstrand, AFP
In clinical trials undertaken at UC Berkeley’s Skydeck accelerator, subjects who used the wearable patch recorded a 20 percent improvement in working memory. In addition, a rate of learning 120 times faster than a placebo was recorded after just a 15-minute session with the wearable patch fitted.
The new device has been developed by Humm, a neuroscience company. This is a neurostimulation device fitted to the forehead above the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain associated with decision making and learning, plus personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behavior). The device uses a electrical stimulation method termed transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), operating at frequency of 6 Hz (which is within the theta band). The wearable has been designed as a lightweight and comfortable item, and to work with just a short application.
According to a white paper, the tACS method "has been shown to produce a wide range of cognitive effects, including enhancement of working memory. The primary intended use is for enhancing learning speed, memory performance and attention." The device has been programmed to emit a finely tuned tiny electric pulse which works throughout the brain, driving neurons to resonate in synchronicity. This bringing together of neuron frequency helps different parts of the brain to become temporarily connected and ready to process new information. The ability to learn is sustained for up to an hour and a half following treatment.
With the clinical trial, researchers randomly assigned 36 volunteers to receive either active Humm stimulation or a placebo condition (a non-operating device). The subjects were blinded to the condition. Before, during, and after the stimulation, participants wer asked to undertake a working memory task. It was found that the active stimulation group performed better during and after stimulation when compared with the control group.
The Humm patch has been made available for $5 per device and it is targeted at people aged 40 and over, who are studying, assessing unfamiliar material or seeking to learn new skills.