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Electrical impulses grow new brain cells

TORONTO, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- An animal study shows electrical stimulation of a specific region of the brain may produce new brain cells that enhance memory, Canadian researchers say.

In reporting the study in The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers say the findings suggest deep brain stimulation, a clinical procedure that delivers electrical pulses to targeted areas of the brain, may work to improve cognition.

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"DBS has been quite effective for the treatment of movement disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, and has recently been explored for treatment of a range of neurologic and psychiatric conditions," Paul Frankland of The Hospital for Sick Children in Ontario said. "These new findings have important clinical implications as they inform potential treatments for humans with memory disorders."

New cells are born in the hippocampus, the brain's learning and memory center, throughout life, and Frankland and colleagues found that one hour of electrical stimulation of the brains of mice caused two-fold increase in new cells in the hippocampus.

The stimulated animals showed improved performance in tests of spatial learning, they said.

"This study suggests that the stimulation of specific brain circuitry may result in the development of new functional brain cells in particular brain regions," said Daniel A. Peterson of the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, an expert on stem cells and brain repair who was unaffiliated with the study.

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