Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Jumper cables for the mind

November 5, 2013
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tDCS Device (credit: Soterix Medical)
Transcranial direct-current stimulation, or tDCS, an experimental technique for delivering extremely low dose electrical stimulation to the brain, has been shown in hundreds of studies to enhance an astonishing, seemingly implausible variety of intellectual, emotional and movement-related brain functions, Dan Hurley, the author of the forthcoming book Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power, writes in The New York Times. …
Scientific papers published in leading peer-reviewed journals since 2005 have shown that tDCS can improve the speed or accuracy with which people perform this attention-switching task.
Other studies have found it can improve everything from working memory to long-term memory, math calculations, reading ability, solving difficult problems, piano playing, complex verbal thought, planning, visual memory, the ability to categorize, the capacity for insight, post-stroke paralysis and aphasia, chronic pain and even depression. Effects have been shown to last for weeks or months. …
One of the most striking examples of cognitive enhancement comes from research supported by the U.S. Air Force, showing that tDCS improves pilots’ vigilance and target detection. “The military has been looking at how to improve vigilance for the past 50 or 60 years,” said Andy McKinley, a civilian biomedical engineer who has been studying tDCS at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. “At minimum we get a twofold improvement in how long a person can maintain performance. We’ve never seen that with anything else.” [...]


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