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A network approach for modulating memory processes via direct and indirect brain stimulation: Toward a causal approach for the neural basis of memory


Electrical stimulation of the brain is a unique tool to perturb endogenous neural signals, allowing us to evaluate the necessity of given neural processes to cognitive processing. An important issue, gaining increasing interest in the literature, is whether and how stimulation can be employed to selectively improve or disrupt declarative memory processes. Here, we provide a comprehensive review of both invasive and non-invasive stimulation studies aimed at modulating memory performance. The majority of past studies suggest that invasive stimulation of the hippocampus impairs memory performance; similarly, most non-invasive studies show that disrupting frontal or parietal regions also impairs memory performance, suggesting that these regions also play necessary roles in declarative memory. On the other hand, a handful of both invasive and non-invasive studies have also suggested modest improvements in memory performance following stimulation. These studies typically target brain regions connected to the hippocampus or other memory "hubs," which may affect endogenous activity in connected areas like the hippocampus, suggesting that to augment declarative memory, altering the broader endogenous memory network activity is critical. Together, studies reporting memory improvements/impairments are consistent with the idea that a network of distinct brain "hubs" may be crucial for successful memory encoding and retrieval rather than a single primary hub such as the hippocampus. Thus, it is important to consider neurostimulation from the network perspective, rather than from a purely localizationalist viewpoint. We conclude by proposing a novel approach to neurostimulation for declarative memory modulation that aims to facilitate interactions between multiple brain "nodes" underlying memory rather than considering individual brain regions in isolation.

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