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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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4 Responses

  1. Joe Paz says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

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

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