Brain stimulation can be used like a scalpel to improve memory

on 11 January 2018
manage the mind, manage life

It is often so exciting to see how science mirrors or discovers things that have been known to professional hypnotherapists for many years. After all, the only thing we have to work with, is the clients mind! The mind comes replete with a huge store of hidden talents, not least of which is . . . . . . . . . 

Memory, when you think of it, is the cornerstone of what makes us different to any other species. Of course that doesn't mean other animals do not have memories, kick a dog and they'll never forget you! But we are unique in that we can cultivate memories to create the future. I recall reading comic books as a young boy, stories about us going to the moon, that mars was alive with little green men etc. Of course for most of us at that time, this was sheer fantasy; nowadays, it's a mere fact of life (although they haven't yet found the little green men on Mars)! History is littered with people who have made fantastic use of their imagination and memories and it is children’s ability to distort reality and then take that ability into adulthood; that makes us great. Ask any Harry Potter fan?

Essentially what happens in hypnosis, is that we tickle the imagination, introduce thoughts, ideas and concepts that lead the client to where they want to be in their life and the key component that makes that happen; is memory! The major difference between ordinary conscious, explicit (declarative) memory, is that, in hypnosis, we work at the level below consciousness and at that level it alters the way the brain processes information. How does it do that? I really have no idea, but I also don't know how a chicken lays an egg or why grass is always green (alright, I know not all grasses are green!!!). The point here, is, that not knowing doesn't prevent or make things happen. Of all the people I have helped quit smoking, not a single one refused to quit until they understood, "how it happened!" Hypnotherapy can help you achieve many things that are being prevented by the function, or dysfunction, of memory. Habits are a form of memory, as is bad or unwanted behaviour, phobias, over eating (for no medical reason) and of course smoking.

I once saw a person with traumatic brain injury forget that they smoked; can you believe that? They also forgot the names of people they loved and experienced plenty of other brain/mind anomalies. As the trauma lessened, all normal functions returned; including the urge to smoke. Of course scientists or doctors may say this was merely a result of the injury, which I agree. However, it was an interruption in the normal neural communications that occur within the brain, and however you want to cut it, that is a form of memory. For a certain amount of time, the brain's normal ability to access the names of loved ones, places, road names and all other sorts of information known to this person, including smoking, were unavailable! As the condition improved, the memories began to reconnect; truly amazing to observe!

The reason why I mention all of the above, is because in hypnosis we also stimulate the brain/mind without the need of a scalpel. We (hypnotherapists) enable clients to have permanence in their new found ability, be it to speak in public when previously they could not, stop a 100 a day smoking habit, lose a fear of flying or be able to pick up a spider, when previously, the mere mention of the word threw them into a blind state of panic. And none of this could be possible, were it not for the alteration, adaption or reconsolidation of "memory." I applaud all the great achievements made by science and in the excellent way they help many people.

My aim here, is to highlight the way hypnosis can help many people, whose condition is not deemed worthy of such a medical intervention. Essentially helping ordinary people; live a more ordinary life! To find out more, why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation - here


The Research: Northwestern Medicine scientists showed for the first time that non-invasive brain stimulation can be used like a scalpel, rather than like a hammer, to cause a specific improvement in precise memory. Precise memory, rather than general memory, is critical for knowing details such as the specific colour, shape and location of a building you are looking for, rather than simply knowing the part of town it's in. This type of memory is crucial for normal functioning, and it is often lost in people with serious memory disorders. "We show that it is possible to target the portion of the brain responsible for this type of memory and to improve it," said lead author Joel Voss, assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "People with brain injuries have problems with precise memory as do individuals with dementia, and so our findings could be useful in developing new treatments for these conditions."

By stimulating the brain network responsible for spatial memory with powerful electromagnets, scientists improved the precision of people's memory for identifying locations. This benefit lasted a full 24 hours after receiving stimulation and corresponded to changes in brain activity. "We improved people's memory in a very specific and important way a full day after we stimulated their brains," Voss said.

The paper was published Jan. 19 in Current Biology. The research enhances scientific understanding of how memory can be improved using noninvasive stimulation. Most previous studies of noninvasive brain stimulation have found only very general and short-lived effects on thinking abilities, rather than highly specific and long-lasting effects on an ability such as precise memory. The scientists used MRI to identify memory-related brain networks then stimulated them with noninvasive electromagnetic stimulation. Detailed memory tests were used to show that this improved spatial precision memory, and EEG was used to show that these memory improvements corresponded to indicators of improved brain network function.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Northwestern University. Original written by Marla Paul. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Aneesha S. Nilakantan et al. Stimulation of the Posterior Cortical-Hippocampal Network Enhances Precision of Memory Recollection. Current Biology, January 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.12.042