29 Aug Brain power may be boosted by electrical current
Humans have been trying to unlock the deeper mysteries of the brain for centuries, but only now does the technology exist to facilitate true exploration of the mind. Internal photography systems like magnetic resonance imaging give scientists the ability to watch the brain work, and precise surgical techniques allow physicians to heal damaged areas of the organ.
However, not until now have researchers been able to boost the brain's power. According to a study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University and published in the journal Science, an electrical current applied non-invasively to a particular section of the brain can improve memory and other cognitive functions. The findings hold great promise for treating brain injuries in the future.
Brains of the operation
To conduct the experiment, the Northwestern researchers gathered 16 adults between 21 and 40 years old. Each subject underwent an MRI exam, where detailed images of their brains were taken at rest and during activity. The researchers focused on the hippocampus, the area of the brain most strongly associated with creating and storing memories.
During the MRI, the researchers applied targeted pulses of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, a non-invasive process that delivers magnetic waves of electrical current to the brain. Participants were exposed to 20-minute periods of TMS for five straight days.
The researchers found that TMS improved performance in memory tests up to 24 hours after exposure. TMS had been used in prior studies to increase short-term memories, but this was the first to produce results that lasted after stimulation had ended.
"[The participants] remembered more face-word pairings after the stimulation than before, which means their learning ability improved," Joel Voss, Ph.D., assistant professor of medical social sciences and senior author of the study, said in a statement. "This opens up a whole new area for treatment studies where we will try to see if we can improve function in people who really need it."
Not everybody has access to TMS or even 20 minutes every day to devote to a stimulation session, but there are other ways of boosting brain power without surgery. Omega-3 fatty acids can help repair damaged parts of the brain, regulate mood and protect your heart to boot, and the pure nutrition of Omax3 ensures that your brain gets as much omega-3 as it needs.