Most of the research on memory boosters has looked for medicines that can improve cognitive performance and treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the availability of drugs that temporarily alleviate dementia symptoms, no disease-modifying medication has been discovered.
Other promising studies have focused on technologies that affect brain cells using magnets, low-voltage electrical currents, or ultrasound waves that either stimulate or suppress certain cells.
During the treatments, volunteers sit with their head against a magnet or wear electrodes on their scalp.
For example, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) uses magnetic fields to activate specific brain regions and already has FDA clearance for treating patients with depression that have not responded to antidepressant medications.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is another method that uses electrodes placed on the forehead and scalp to transmit weak electric currents from a 9-volt battery.
Several studies have focused on the potential cognitive benefits from TMS and tDCS treatments. So far, the results suggest that these methods may improve some mental functions when used along with other cognitive training strategies.
Animal studies in this area also show promise. One investigation of mice genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s indicated that the abnormal amyloid proteins in their brains dissolved following treatment with ultrasound.
The animals also demonstrated improved memory for finding their way through mazes.
Although these and other non-invasive methods may eventually help millions of individuals experiencing age-related cognitive decline, more research is needed before they’re ready for prime time.
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