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Cognitive enhancement in the future: electric brain stimulation plus cognitive training?

brainstimulationElec­tri­cal Brain Stim­u­la­tion Helps Peo­ple Learn Math Faster (Wired): “…sci­en­tists stim­u­lated vol­un­teers’ brains with mild elec­tric cur­rent while they learned new arith­metic oper­a­tions based on made-up sym­bols. Peo­ple who received brain stim­u­la­tion dur­ing train­ing ses­sions on five con­sec­u­tive days learned two to five times faster than those who received sham stim­u­la­tion, and they retained a 30 to 40 per­cent per­for­mance edge six months later…The researchers applied TRNS to a dif­fer­ent brain region thought to play a role in math­e­mat­i­cal cog­ni­tion, the left dor­so­lat­eral pre­frontal cortex…“If I put my sci-fi hat on, what I can imag­ine com­ing down the road is even more sophis­ti­cated com­bi­na­tions of stim­u­la­tion and cog­ni­tive train­ing,” said Peter Reiner, a neu­ro­sci­en­tist and neu­roethi­cist at the Uni­ver­sity of British Colum­bia in Vancouver… ”

Study:  Long-Term Enhance­ment of Brain Func­tion and Cog­ni­tion Using Cog­ni­tive Train­ing and Brain Stim­u­la­tion (Cur­rent Biology)

  • Abstract: Non­in­va­sive brain stim­u­la­tion has shown con­sid­er­able promise for enhanc­ing cog­ni­tive func­tions by the long-term manip­u­la­tion of neu­ro­plas­tic­ity. How­ever, the obser­va­tion of such improve­ments has been focused at the behav­ioral level, and enhance­ments largely restricted to the per­for­mance of basic tasks… Five con­sec­u­tive days of TRNS-accompanied cog­ni­tive train­ing enhanced the speed of both cal­cu­la­tion– and memory-recall-based arith­metic learning…Testing 6 months after train­ing revealed long-lasting behav­ioral and phys­i­o­log­i­cal mod­i­fi­ca­tions in the stim­u­lated group rel­a­tive to sham con­trols for trained and non­trained cal­cu­la­tion mate­r­ial. These results demon­strate that, depend­ing on the learn­ing regime, TRNS can induce long-term enhance­ment of cog­ni­tive and brain func­tions. Such find­ings have sig­nif­i­cant impli­ca­tions for basic and trans­la­tional neu­ro­science, high­light­ing TRNS as a viable approach to enhanc­ing learn­ing and high-level cog­ni­tion by the long-term mod­u­la­tion of neuroplasticity.

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