Deep Brain Stimulation boosts memory

A morbidly obese man who was undergoing treatment with deep brain electrical stimulation experienced a surprising boost in his memory. Deep brain stimulation devices are comparable to a "pacemaker" for the brain and are used to treat Parkinson's disease, depression, and other disorders. When the physicians at the Toronto Western Hospital first stimulated the electrodes in the patient's brain, he experienced deja vu and was then overwhelmed with incredibly vivid memories from decades before. He subsequently performed much better on memory tests when the stimulator was switched on. From the BBC News:
(After the deja vu, he) had a sudden perception of being in a park with friends.

He felt younger, thought he was around 20-years-old, and his girlfriend of the time was there. He was an observer, and saw the scene in colour.

As the intensity of the stimulation increased, details in the scene became more vivid.

Following surgery, the patient recovered for two months. But later when the electrodes were stimulated for a second time, he experienced a similar effect...

The results suggest it might be possible to use deep brain stimulation directly to boost memory.

"We hopefully have found a circuit in the brain which can be modulated by stimulation, and which might provide benefit to patients with memory disorders," said Professor (Andres) Lozano.
Link to BBC News, Link to paper abstract in Annals of Neurology, Link to more coverage in The Independent


  1. So do you have to keep stimulating the electrodes to get the memory boost? Kind of sounds like it. Anyway, I suffer from depression and “incredibly vivid memories from decades before” are part of the reason. I think I’ll pass on re-living that horror thank you.

  2. I’m assuming a punch to the head doesn’t qualify as “Deep Brain Stimulation”?? How about porno?

    Maybe there are other ways to get “Deep Brain Stimulation” than having implants stuck in your brain and getting shocked on a regular basis? Please?

  3. fyi, the link to the paper didn’t work for me. It does if you delete everything after the 9 digit number, though.

  4. @ #4 NOEN

    LOLOL, dude that was the first thing that popped into My head when I read this. Suffering from depression and addiction just about all of my life up until a few years ago I could very well do without memories of the good old days. Just about all of them would be cringe moments.

  5. Being one without many horrible memories of childhood, I think this is fairly awesome. The inserting of electrodes and so forth does sound a bit scary, like any messing around with the brain, but sounds cool nonetheless.

  6. Have they independently verified that these are *real* memories? It’s possible for the brain to synthesize a plausible-but-false memory even without drugs or electrodes.

  7. Cheqyr, so true. As someone who has very vivid dreams, sometimes I’m not always sure if I have a real memory, or a dream memory (is Boing Boing just a dream…there’s no place like home…). And we know how fast the brain can come up with dreams–seconds. If you conbine this ability with realtime stimulation you could have lots of people that suddenly remember things that never happened. The best thing to do is study this procedure. If lots of people remember being abducted by aliens we’ve got our answer.

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