Zapping your brain while you sleep could actually improve your memory

Technologies like Elon Musk’s proposed Neuralink promise augmentation of the human memory, courtesy of a special brain chip. If you’re not quite ready to dive into the world of brain implants to improve your memory function, however, you might appreciate a piece of research carried out recently by scientists at the Society for Neuroscience.

They have demonstrated a noninvasive overnight brain stimulation technique that promises to improve people’s ability to remember things. And you won’t have to worry about an overzealous engineer taking a miniature hacksaw to your skull – this technique won’t even disturb your sleep!

“We have shown that we can improve the integration of recent experiences into a more general form of memory through the process of sleep-dependent consolidation,” Dr. Nicholas Ketz, one of the researchers on the project, told Digital Trends. “We do this by selectively enhancing the natural slow-wave oscillations that occur during sleep, which are essential in this consolidation processes. Further, we’ve shown that we can use a fully closed-loop system that automatically detects these oscillations and stimulates at the matching frequency and phase of the ongoing slow waves, greatly improving our ability to influence the underlying brain state and thus the consolidation process.”

Participants in the researchers’ study were trained and then tested on a visual discrimination task in which they had to identify objects and people in a scene. Those who had been given the brain stimulation while sleeping were noticeably better at detecting those same targets in similar, but novel, situations.

Ketz said that there is still further work to be done, though.

“While the average response across the group of participants shows increased performance and enhanced slow-wave oscillations, many participants showed varying degrees of responsiveness to the intervention,” he said. “Future work related to this approach would try to understand, within each individual, how to minimize the duration of the intervention, and maximize the response to stimulation.”

This isn’t the first time the power of brain stimulation has been shown off in experiments. Previous research has suggested that a quick brain jolt could help with everything from improving creativity to curbing Tourette syndrome tics or weaning people off heroin.

A paper describing this latest memory-improving work was recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Emerging Tech

A cardiac arrest-detecting smart speaker could save your life

Smart speakers are great for everything from playing music to operate our smart homes. But could they soon also help save lives as well? A new project suggests the answer is a resounding yes.
Deals

Are flat pillows a pain in your neck? Here are the best pillows for side-sleepers

If you've tried doubling up on pillows or buying larger ones to no avail, then it might just be time for a new pillow – one made for sleeping on your side. We've rounded up the best pillows for side sleepers that give neck and head…
Smart Home

Protect yourself with the best home security cameras of 2019

When it comes to the best home security cameras, the choice often comes down to the one that simply knows how to stay out of your way. Here are some of our favorites, both indoor and outdoor.
Home Theater

Looking for the best 4K Ultra HD TVs you can buy? Here are five great options

If it's time to upgrade your old 1080p to a new 4K model but you don't know what to look for, fear not, as we're here with a list of the best 4K Ultra HD TVs to help make your buying process as easy as possible.
Emerging Tech

New snail-inspired super glue can switch between sticky and non-sticky states

A new snail mucus-inspired super glue can switch between adhesive and non-adhesive states. You know, like a snail being able to grip onto a surface while moving. Here's why that matters.
Cars

Nissan’s high-tech ice cream truck removes the fumes from your order

Nissan has given the traditional ice cream truck a modern makeover to create a cleaner, greener, high-tech alternative that also gives aging electric-vehicle batteries a new life.
Emerging Tech

Bill Nye the Science Guy talks “solar sailing” and the new space race

If successful, The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 will be a milestone in spaceflight, the first craft to raise its orbit around the planet using just the power of sunlight.
Emerging Tech

Walmart using A.I.-powered cameras to spot dodgy shoppers at self-checkouts

Walmart is using computer vision technology at some of its stores in an effort to spot sneaky behavior at its self-checkout counters. The A.I.-powered cameras automatically identify any dodgy activity and then alert staff.
Emerging Tech

Blue Origin test fires the engine that could help it land on the moon

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has carried out a test firing of its BE-7 engine, the propulsion system which it hopes will help humankind to land on the moon for the first time since 1972.
Emerging Tech

Hormone boosts could help astronauts from losing muscle on long space journeys

Reduced gravity conditions during space flight missions can cause extreme muscle loss. Special hormone treatments may be able to help. Here's why that's of growing importance for space travel.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX is on a hiring spree for its Starlink global internet project

After a string of delays, SpaceX's Starlink project was finally launched last month. Now an analysis of data from SpaceX's job listings shows the company is on a hiring tear, advertising for more and more positions for the project.
Emerging Tech

Ready to roll: Mars 2020 rover fitted with wheels ahead of mission next year

The Mars 2020 rover is getting ready for its trip to the red planet next year. The latest step in readying the rover is installing its wheels and suspension system, which engineers at NASA have been doing this month.
Emerging Tech

You can help search for aliens with an open access release of SETI data

The Breakthrough Initiatives, a program to search for extraterrestrial intelligence, recently analyzed its first three years of radio telescope data. And all of the data collected is being made publicly available in an open data archive.
Emerging Tech

Want to work in the stars? Here are six future space jobs you could hold

Ever dreamed of leaving Earth to work in the stars? Here's a list of job titles that might sound like science fiction now, but almost certainly won’t a decade or two in the future.