The hippocampus is critical for episodic memory, and synaptic changes induced by long-term potentiation (LTP) are thought to underlie memory formation. In rodents, hippocampal LTP may be induced through electrical stimulation of the perforant path. To test whether similar techniques could improve episodic memory in humans, we implemented a microstimulation technique that allowed delivery of low-current electrical stimulation via 100 μm-diameter microelectrodes. As thirteen neurosurgical patients performed a person recognition task, microstimulation was applied in a theta-burst pattern, shown to optimally induce LTP. Microstimulation in the right entorhinal area during learning significantly improved subsequent memory specificity for novel portraits; participants were able both to recognize previously-viewed photos and reject similar lures. These results suggest that microstimulation with physiologic level currents—a radical departure from commonly used deep brain stimulation protocols—is sufficient to modulate human behavior and provides an avenue for refined interrogation of the circuits involved in human memory.
Titiz AS, Hill MRH, Mankin EA, et al. Theta-burst microstimulation in the human entorhinal area improves memory specificity. eLife. 2017;6:e29515. doi: 10.7554/eLife.29515
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