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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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