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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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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