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UT Southwestern Participating In Major Project To Stop Memory Loss

Closeup of a CAT scan with brain and skull

Millions of Americans suffer from memory loss - it could be from Alzheimer’s disease, a traumatic brain injury from the battlefield – or even a car wreck. UT Southwestern Medical Center is working with several universities on an ambitious project to stop memory loss

Interview Highlights: Dr. BradleyLega...

... On stopping memory loss:

"The early stages of the project [is to understand] what are the overall brain features that suggest that you're going to remember something versus when you're not, and then also understand how can we modify those patterns in any way. And then, the strategy is to use very small and safe amounts of electrical pulses to try and modify the patterns.

Ultimately I think that the project will [try] to understand what the brain pattern is at one time and then use the information that we've learned about how to modify those patterns to then put the brain into a state that's better for encoding memory."

...  On using seizures to understand memory loss:

"...It turns out that a lot of the same brain areas that are critical for this type of memory are often involved in seizures and how seizures spread. Our role at UT Southwestern is to identify these patients, talk to them, and the ones that are generous enough to donate their time to the study, to get them enrolled and have them engage in the memory studies that were doing to understand the brain process better."

... On the science behind this study:

"This idea that we're going to use the electrodes implanted in the brain to also understand memory has been going on for 50 years in animal studies. The idea that we can take advantage of the opportunity to record from patients that are being looked at for possible surgery for seizures has been around for about 10 or 15 years.

The issue [was] with only one center focused on this particular question, the advances were a little bit slower. Everybody who was engaged in this research from 10 years ago as I was at the University of Pennsylvania knew that ultimately the goal would be 'how can we restore memory in people who've suffered memory loss?' It just was difficult to organize the resources needed to make it happen faster."

Dr. Bradley Lega is a neurosurgeon with UT Southwestern Medical Center. Learn more about the project here.

Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.