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Good survey of brain stimulation methods, value and limitations

brain_stimulationStim­u­lat­ing the Brain: From If to How (The Dana Foundation):

Recent years have brought mod­ern meth­ods of brain stim­u­la­tion into the main­stream of neu­rol­ogy and psy­chi­a­try. But their mechanism—how exactly deep brain stim­u­la­tion (DBS) relieves Parkinson’s dis­ease symp­toms and how repet­i­tive tran­scra­nial mag­netic stim­u­la­tion (rTMS) improves depres­sion, for example—remains obscure. Research into this ques­tion has largely shifted from effects on iso­lated tar­get areas to com­mu­ni­ca­tion within net­works of con­sid­er­able breadth and complexity.

The ques­tion of how the brain wired is together and func­tions as units in some sort of coher­ence pat­tern is what’s dri­ving every­thing now,” says Helen May­berg, pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try, neu­rol­ogy, and radi­ol­ogy at Emory Uni­ver­sity and a mem­ber of the Dana Alliance for Brain Ini­tia­tives. Under­stand­ing these sys­tems bet­ter, she and oth­ers believe, will lead to more pre­cise and effec­tive treatment…“Every per­son is bio­log­i­cally unique, and a wide range of ther­a­pies will be nec­es­sary to address these differences.”

Does brain stim­u­la­tion make you bet­ter at maths? (Mind Hacks):

The par­tic­u­lar tech­nique these researchers used, called Tran­scra­nial Ran­dom Noise Stim­u­la­tion (TRNS) is a recent inven­tion, but the use of elec­tri­cal stim­u­la­tion to affect brain activ­ity has a long history…

Putting these wor­ries aside, we’re not going to see this tech­nique used in the class­room any time soon, even if it holds up. Sup­pose this tech­nique is reli­able, and we really can improve people’s basic maths skills with a bit of elec­tri­cal stim­u­la­tion we’d still hes­i­tate to deploy it. Does it affect any other skills, per­haps tak­ing resources away from them?”

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