Can Direct Brain Stimulation Boost Performance?

Neu­rons in the brain trans­mit infor­ma­tion by exchang­ing elec­tri­cal and chem­i­cal sig­nals. What would hap­pen if these elec­tri­cal sig­nals were trans­formed by apply­ing an exter­nal cur­rent? Could this help boost brain functions?

In this arti­cle, Tran­scra­nial direct cur­rent stim­u­la­tion (tDCS) is report­ed to help peo­ple solve brain-teasers. In the study weak cur­rents altered the activ­i­ty of neu­rons in the ante­ri­or tem­po­ral lobes through elec­trodes on the scalp. Read more

In this oth­er arti­cle anoth­er tech­nique was used: Tran­scra­nial mag­net­ic stim­u­la­tion (TMS). TMS works by gen­er­at­ing a mag­net­ic field that pass­es the scalp and the skull. In the study an explorato­ry use of TMS com­bined with cog­ni­tive train­ing was test­ed for a few months on 8 Alzheimer’s patients. The results were promis­ing. Read more

Final­ly, this arti­cle reports the use of a dif­fer­ent, more inva­sive tech­nique: deep brain stim­u­la­tion (DBS). In DBS a sur­geon direct­ly implants elec­trodes in spe­cif­ic parts of the brain. In the study, an area of the fornix (a region impor­tant in mem­o­ry func­tion) of the brains of 6 patients suf­fer­ing from Alzheimer’s Dis­ease was stim­u­lat­ed. After one year of reg­u­lar stim­u­la­tion, the cog­ni­tive func­tions of 3 of the 6 patients dete­ri­o­rat­ed less than expect­ed. Read more

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  1. Joe Paz on March 18, 2011 at 8:10

    Wow — that’s a pret­ty excit­ing approach.
    Is it sci­ence fic­tion to think of “hel­mets” that one could wear to stim­u­late cer­tain brain parts when one wants to get in a focused state of mind, or in a cre­ative state of mind?

  2. Pascale on March 21, 2011 at 7:01

    Hi Joe. I think it is so far because the map­ping between brain func­tions and struc­tur­al parts of the brain is not pre­cise enough. But that would indeed be neat!

  3. Thomas Clancy on March 21, 2011 at 8:24

    A hel­met to enhance men­tal per­for­mance is intrigu­ing, but also con­sid­er using one to stim­u­late the “God” part of the brain, in order to recre­ate the states of yogis (con­trol over the body’s invol­un­tary sys­tems) or out-of-body expe­ri­ence or remote view­ing. I think SF has one or two sto­ries about such devices allow­ing the wear­er to “read minds.”

  4. Mood Swings on April 3, 2011 at 9:31

    Fab­u­lous post,This is such a great resource that you are pro­vid­ing us.

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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