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Can Direct Brain Stimulation Boost Performance?

Posted Mar 17 2011 4:39pm

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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