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You stride purposefully into the living room and then . . . your mind goes blank. You can’t remember what you planned to do.

Or you memorize a short grocery list. But when you arrive at the supermarket all you can recall is yogurt.

Then there are those times you bump into what’s-his-name at work. Such lapses are presumed to be a normal feature of the aging brain. They can’t be helped.

Or can they? Researchers at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine and Boston University report tantalizing progress in related experiments to boost shortand longer-term memory. The first type is “working memory.” That’s what’s used to remind yourself of a phone number you just heard, or to take your medication. Then there’s longer-term memory that helps you recall something that happened weeks or years ago.

In one set of experiments at Boston University, researchers jolted the brains of people over age 60 with a mild electrical current. Study participants donned what look like shower caps with electrodes protruding (Think: Grade Z 1950s ci-fi movies). No, the therapy doesn’t hurt. Result: After the zapping, study participants over 60 performed a certain memory task as well as those in their 20s.

Shocking and exciting? “Totally,” Northwestern’s Joel Voss tells us. Memory ability peaks in the early 20s, he says, and then slowly declines. The research aims to help people with age-related memory challenges—all of us— but may also prove helpful in treating early stages of Alzheimer’s, Voss says.

Unfortunately, the effects of those treatments wear off after a few hours or a few days. But we can imagine a time when the forgetful could get a mild memory zap with an implantable chip, or maybe via a smartphone app. Who wouldn’t trade a momentary tingle for days or weeks of great memory?

Seniors are often told to exercise their brains to preserve mental acuity. There are plenty of programs, though most of them are more effective at lightening your wallet than improving your memory.

But the research suggests that instead of doing crossword puzzles and working Sudokus, the aging mind can be jolted to a more powerful state. Just imagine . . . a world without lost car keys.

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