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Cognitive enhancement by transcranial random electrical noise stimulation?

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You may wish to check out, "The Mental Cost of Cognitive Enhancement," published March 6, 2013 in the Journal of Neuroscience. The news on this enhancement is that there's a trade off when it comes to boosting brain power by electrical stimulation. See, "Boosting Brain Power Comes At A Price." That article explains that noninvasive brain stimulation provides a potential tool for affecting brain functions in the typical and atypical brain and offers in several cases an alternative to pharmaceutical intervention, notes the study's abstract. If you wonder whether brain stimulation with electricity can help you do better in math, you may wish to first read the article, "New Brain Stimulation Technique Makes You Better At Math."

The stimulation isn't electrical as in plugging your brain into a socket. What it's about consists of a process known as transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS). The stimulation has been around for a few years. It's really more like excitability. tRNS works by enhancing the excitability of the brain, and it does so by applying random electrical noise to target regions of the cortex via stimulation electrodes placed on the surface of the scalp, notes the article, "New Brain Stimulation Technique Makes You Better At Math."

Some studies have suggested that transcranial electrical stimulation (TES), a form of noninvasive brain stimulation, also can be used to enhance cognitive performance. Critically, research so far has primarily focused on optimizing protocols for effective stimulation, or assessing potential physical side effects of TES while neglecting the possibility of cognitive side effects, says the article.

What the researchers assessed in the study is the possibility of potential side effects of TES

Here's how it works as far as what's in the study's abstract: The scientists targeted the high-level cognitive abilities of learning and automaticity in the mathematical domain. Notably, learning and automaticity represent critical abilities for potential cognitive enhancement in typical and atypical populations.

Over 6 days, healthy human adults underwent cognitive training on a new numerical notation while receiving TES to the posterior parietal cortex or the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Stimulation to the the posterior parietal cortex facilitated numerical learning, whereas automaticity for the learned material was impaired.

In contrast, stimulation to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex impaired the learning process, whereas automaticity for the learned material was enhanced. The observed double dissociation indicates that cognitive enhancement through TES can occur at the expense of other cognitive functions. These findings have important implications for the future use of enhancement technologies for neurointervention and performance improvement in healthy populations.

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