Next Generation Electrical Brain Stimulation may Help to Restore Memory Deficits

Michael Kahana

University of Pennsylvania

Grant Program:

Clinical Neuroscience Research

Funded in:

December 2007, for 3 years

Funding Amount:


Lay Summary

Next generation electrical brain stimulation may help to restore memory deficits

Researchers will work to refine and test the next generation of implanted and electrically stimulated brain electrodes, which are designed to help cognitively impaired patients regain their abilities to store and retrieve memories. The investigators will build upon prior human and animal studies that have demonstrated the therapeutic benefit of electrical brain stimulation in patients with conditions that destroy motor and sensory abilities, which are not effectively treated with existing drug therapies.

With currently used implanted electrodes, signals flow only from the stimulated electrodes to the brain cells.  For this next generation of brain stimulators, which hold the potential to repair cognitive deficits including memory, the researchers will work to establish a dynamic interaction between the patients’ brain’s signals and the implanted electrodes to maximize their potential therapeutic benefit. The investigators will harness science’s improved understanding of the physiology of memory to determine how to optimally time the generation of electrical impulses to enhance patients’ abilities to form and recall memories.

These “Brain Computer Interfaces” (BCI’s) will utilize a rich array of patients’ brain signals that are generated from single brain cells as well as from complicated neural networks. The researchers will test this approach in 24 patients with intractable epilepsy, who have had electrodes surgically implanted to monitor and help prevent their seizures. Using these electrodes, the investigators will obtain real-time feedback on the electrical signaling rhythms in the patients’ brain as they perform memory tasks. By comparing signaling characteristics with patients’ performance, they will identify the optimal time to stimulate the electrodes to intensify this brain signaling, and determine whether patients’ memory performance is improved. If successful, dynamic BCIs can be developed into a “cognitive neuroprosthesis” for helping to restore patients’ abilities to store and retrieve memories.


Intracranial EEG for Theta Rhythm Contingency during Cognitive Tasks

This proposal, “Intracranial EEG for Theta Rhythm Contingency during Cognitive Tasks,” seeks to begin research in extending the domain of brain machine interfaces to cognition and memory.  We seek to explore the role intracranial theta rhythms play in memory formation and to demonstrate a causative role for these rhythms.  We aim to do this by establishing real-time feedback from intracranial subdural and depth electrodes, implanted in patients for seizure monitoring.  By monitoring these rhythms and adjusting presentation of a cognitive task accordingly, we hope to thereby close the loop between recorded signals and stimulus presentation.

Investigator Biographies

Michael Kahana

Michael Kahana, Professor of Psychology


Case Western Reserve Univ., Cleveland, OH B.A./M.A. 1989 Psychology

University Toronto, ON, Canada Ph.D. 1993 Experimental Psychology

Harvard University, Cambridge, MA NIH Postdoc 1994 Experimental Psychology


1994-1999 Assistant Professor, Dept of Psychology and National Center for Complex Systems, Brandeis University, Boston, MA

2000-2004 Associate Professor, Dept of Psychology and National Center for Complex Systems, Brandeis University, Boston, MA

2004-present Professor, Dept of Psychology and Institute of Neurological Sciences, University of Pennsylvania