Discovering how to enhance a person’s mental abilities has been of great interest to researchers in psychology and neuroscience gay for decades. From improving attention in high-risk environments, such as air traffic management, to reviving memory in people with dementia, the ability to improve cognitive function can have far-reaching consequences. New research suggests that Brain stimulation It can help achieve the goal of enhancing mental function.
In the Reinhart Lab At Boston University, my colleagues and I have been studying the effects of an emerging brain stimulation technology – Transcranial alternating current stimulation, or tACS – On different mental functions in patients and healthy people.
During this procedure, people wear a flexible cap fused with electrodes that deliver weak, oscillating electric currents at specific frequencies to the scalp. By applying these controlled currents to specific areas of the brain, it is possible to alter brain activity by Causing neurons to fire rhythmically.
Why is the rhythmic firing of neurons beneficial? Research indicates that brain cells Communicate effectively when they coordinate their firing cadence. Crucially, these show the circadian patterns of brain activity noticeable abnormality During neuropsychiatric diseases. The purpose of TACS is to externally stimulate rhythmic brain activity that promotes healthy mental function, especially when the brain is no longer able to produce these rhythms on its own.
However, TACS is a relatively new technology, and how it works remains unclear. Whether it can strengthen or revive brain rhythms to alter mental function has been the subject of much debate in the field of brain stimulation. While some studies Find a clue Of the changes in brain activity and mental function with TACS, others suggest currents commonly used in humans It may be very weak to have a direct impact.
When encountering conflicting data in the scientific literature, it may be helpful to conduct some kind of study It’s called a meta-analysis That determines the consistency of the evidence across several studies. A previous meta-analysis was done in 2016 I found promising evidence For the use of TACS in altering mental function. However, the number of studies has more than doubled since then. The design of tACS technologies is also becoming increasingly popular increasingly sophisticated.
We proceeded to perform a new meta-analysis of studies using tACS to alter mental function. As far as we know, this work is The largest and most comprehensive meta-analysis To date on this topic, which consists of more than 100 published studies with a total of more than 2,800 human participants.
After pooling more than 300 measures of mental function across all studies, we took note Consistent and immediate improvement On mental function with TACS. When we looked at specific cognitive functions, such as memory and attention, we noticed that TACS produced the strongest improvements in executive functionor the ability to adapt in the face of new, surprising, or conflicting information.
We also saw improvements in the ability to pay attention and retain information for short and long periods of time. Together, these results indicate that TACS can specifically improve certain types of mental function, at least in the short term.
To examine the effectiveness of TACS for those who are particularly vulnerable to changes in mental function, we examined data from studies that included older adults and people with neuropsychiatric conditions. In both groups, we observed reliable evidence for Improvements in cognitive function with TACS.
Interestingly, we also found that a specialized type of TACS can target two regions of the brain at the same time and manipulate how they communicate with each other. Enhance or reduce cognitive function. This bidirectional effect on mental function can be particularly beneficial in the clinic. For example, some psychiatric conditions such as depression may involve a decreased ability to process rewards, while others such as bipolar disorder may involve hyperactive activity. Reward processing system. If TACS can alter mental function in either direction, researchers may be able to develop flexible, targeted designs that address specific clinical needs.
Advancements in the field of TACS bring researchers closer to being able to safely improve mental function in a non-invasive manner that does not require medication. Current statistical evidence across the literature suggests that TACS are showing promise, and improving their design could help them induce stronger and longer-lasting changes in mental function.
This article has been republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons Licence. Read the The original article.
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