Working… Menu

Brain Encoding for Memory

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT00051870
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : January 17, 2003
Last Update Posted : March 4, 2008
Information provided by:
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)

Brief Summary:

This two-part study will use transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS (see below), to explore how the brain forms memories. People remember only some of the events they experience every day, such as faces they perceive, words they read, speech they hear and interpret, and so forth. The events remembered are those that have been saved or formed in the brain. Part 1 of this study involves testing materials for Part 2, the TMS experiment. Part 2 uses TMS to examine what parts of the brain are involved in forming memories. Information gained from this study may be used in developing methods of enhancing memory in both healthy people and in patients with memory impairments.

Healthy right-handed volunteers between 18 and 35 years of age may be eligible for this study. Candidates may be screened with a medical interview and physical examination and a brief test of short- and long-term visual and verbal memory. Eligible volunteers may participate in Part 1 or Part 2 of the study, as follows:

Part 1 - Preparation of Words and Picture Materials

Participants look at several words or shapes that appear in random order on a computer screen and try to remember them as well as possible for a memory test that will be given 20 minutes later. Each image appears on the screen for 3/4 of a second, with 1-1/4-second intervals between them. For the test, words and shapes are again shown on the computer screen at the same timing and intervals. When the items appear, the subject presses one of three buttons as quickly as possible, determining if he or she has recognized the items with a high or low level of confidence. The entire procedure lasts up to 1 hour, with breaks in between. The purpose of this experiment is to find appropriate words and pictures to use as stimuli in the TMS study described below.

Part 2 - TMS Experiment

For TMS, the subject sits in a comfortable chair. An insulated wire coil is placed on the scalp, and brief electrical currents are passed through the coil, creating magnetic pulses that stimulate the brain. The pulses may cause a pulling sensation on the skin under the coil and twitching in muscles of the arm or leg. Electrodes are taped to the skin over some muscles of the hands to record the electrical activity of the muscles. Pulses are delivered in trains or short bursts of impulses, each lasting half a second. Participants receive 90 trains for a total of 900 pulses. TMS is applied during the first part of the memory study, when the words and shapes are first presented on the computer screen, but not during the second presentation for memory testing. The entire procedure takes up to 2 hours, with breaks in between.

Before the TMS session, participants undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine where to place the coil for TMS. For MRI, the subject lies still for up to 30 minutes at a time on a table that slides into the scanner, a narrow metal cylinder surrounded by a strong magnetic field. Earplugs are worn to muffle loud knocking sounds that occur while the scanner takes pictures. Subjects can communicate with the MRI staff at all times and can ask to stop the procedure at any time.

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment
Healthy Device: Magstim Rapid Magnetic Stimulator

Detailed Description:

Recent functional imaging studies showed that memory retrieval is associated with activation in the prefrontal cortex during the encoding process. However, a cause-effect link between prefrontal activity and encoding has not been demonstrated. The purpose of this protocol is to test the hypothesis that inhibitory repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) over left prefrontal cortex interferes with encoding of verbal items (words) into episodic memory, thereby identifying this region as a substrate mediating verbal encoding. Identification of the role of the prefrontal cortex in verbal memory encoding is the first step to try to develop strategies to enhance such encoding processes in patients with memory impairments, an issue of relevance in neurorehabilitation.

We plan to apply rTMS over left prefrontal cortex and over two control sites, during encoding of verbal and nonverbal items into episodic memory. Normal, healthy volunteers will be studied. The outcome measure will be performance on a subsequent memory test for words presented during left prefrontal rTMS, as compared to performance for words presented during rTMS over the control sites or without rTMS. This measure will indicate if left prefrontal stimulation can disrupt memory encoding of words relative to other stimulation sites or to no stimulation.

A secondary outcome measure will be performance on a subsequent memory test for words presented during left prefrontal rTMS, as compared to performance for pictures presented during left prefrontal rTMS. This measure will indicate if disruption of left prefrontal function with TMS affects verbal and more than non-verbal memory encoding.

Layout table for study information
Study Type : Observational
Enrollment : 50 participants
Official Title: Role of the Prefrontal Cortex in Successful Memory Encoding
Study Start Date : January 2003
Study Completion Date : January 2005

Resource links provided by the National Library of Medicine

MedlinePlus related topics: Memory

Information from the National Library of Medicine

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contacts provided below. For general information, Learn About Clinical Studies.

Layout table for eligibility information
Ages Eligible for Study:   Child, Adult, Older Adult
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes



Healthy right handed volunteers, aged 18-35 years, will be included in this protocol.


Exclusion criteria for this study will be any current medical or surgical condition or psychiatric or neurological illness. Furthermore, any individual who is on medication with potential influence on nervous system function, who has a history of surgery with metallic implants or known history of metallic particles in the eye, cardiac pacemaker, neural stimulators, cochlear implants, pregnancy, or history of drug abuse, will be excluded from the study.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT00051870

Layout table for location information
United States, Maryland
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Bethesda, Maryland, United States, 20892
Sponsors and Collaborators
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Layout table for additonal information Identifier: NCT00051870    
Other Study ID Numbers: 030081
First Posted: January 17, 2003    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: March 4, 2008
Last Verified: January 2005
Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):
Verbal Memory
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Cortical Excitability
Nonverbal Memory