Research published in PNAS indicates that one can get a cognitive boost when oscillations in different parts of the brain are made to synchronize with each other.
The study was done by Robert Reinhart of Boston University and focused on two main areas of the brain. One of them is the medial frontal cortex, which activates when one makes an error or is surprised. The other is the lateral prefrontal cortex, which affects one’s actions by handling matters such as goals, rules and decision making.
Previous studies have suggested that these two regions may communicate with each other through their oscillations, allowing them to work in concordance with each other.
According to Reinhart, that makes these two regions the most important for understanding how self-control works.
The Study and Brain Boosts and Oscillations
In his study, Reinhart used high-definition transcranial alternating current stimulation, also called HD-tACS, to affect these oscillations while subjects did specific tasks. Then, the researchers measured the results with an electroencephalogram (EEG).
One of the findings was that when the HD-tACS caused synchronization of the oscillations, the subjects got a cognitive boost. Namely, they made fewer mistakes and recovered from them more easily. However, when the natural oscillations between the regions were disrupted, the participants’ results got worse.
Of particular note was a set of tests where the HD-tACS disrupted the oscillations. However, this then synchronized them more quickly than it did with the other groups. It reportedly took only minutes for the subjects’ performance to be affected.
“We were shocked by the results and how quickly the effects of the stimulation could be reversed,” said Reinhart.
This is intriguing, because many different mental disorders—for example, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, autism, schizophrenia, ADHD and Alzheimer’s disease—are believed to be affected by similar oscillations. Study results and further research may come with a new way of treating them. They may also even be used just to give ordinary people a mental boost when performing various challenging tasks.
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