Zap Your Brain, Boost Your Math Skills

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Exciting a brain region using electrical noise stimulation can help improve mathematical learning in those who struggle with the subject, according to a new study from the Universities of Surrey and Oxford, Loughborough University, and Radboud University in The Netherlands.

During this unique study, researchers investigated the impact of neurostimulation on learning. Despite the growing interest in this non-invasive technique, little is known about the neurophysiological changes induced and the effect it has on learning.

Researchers found that electrical noise stimulation over the frontal part of the brain improved the mathematical ability of people whose brain was less excited (by mathematics) before the application of stimulation.

Entry copied from www.NeuroscienceNews.com

Author: Natasha Meredith
Source: University of Surrey
Contact: Natasha Meredith – University of Surrey

Original Research: Open access.
Human Neuronal Excitation/Inhibition Balance Explains and Predicts Neurostimulation Induced Learning Benefits” by Roi Cohen Kadosh et al. PLOS Biology

The Cognitive Benefits of Psychedelics

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Summary: Researchers are investigating the benefits of psychedelics on cognition from memory malleability to cognitive creativity.

Source: Cognitive Neuroscience Society

The synthesis of LSD and psilocybin in the early to mid-20th century sparked not only a new counterculture in the United States but also a new interest in brain science, specifically the role of neurotransmitters.

Despite these discoveries, research on psychedelics went dormant for decades due to anti-drug sentiment. A recent renaissance in psychedelic research seeks to understand how these drugs might be leveraged as tools in treating mental illness.

While this work has focused largely on mathematical modeling and resting-state neuroimaging, that is now shifting: Cognitive neuroscientists are bringing new rigor to the field, using behavioral and clinical studies to investigate the cognitive effects of psychedelic drugs.

Source: Neuroscience News

The Cognitive Benefits of Psychedelics

Can ‘random noise’ unlock our learning potential?

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Highlights

  • There is an increase in the use of tRNS for enhancing human perception and cognition.
  • tRNS can improve perception which might boost neuroplasticity and learning.
  • tRNS has a potential clinical application.
  • More research investigating the working mechanisms are needed.

Edith Cowan University (ECU) has investigated the effects of transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS) in a variety of settings and found the technology could have many applications. Despite its name, tRNS doesn’t utilize noise in the everyday, auditory sense of the word. Rather, it sees electrodes attached to the head so a weak current can pass through specific parts of the brain.

Study lead Dr Onno van der Groen said the study showed tRNS has promise as a tool to assist people with compromised learning capabilities. “The effect on learning is promising: it can speed up learning and help people with neurological conditions,” Dr van der Groen said. “So, people with learning difficulties you can use it to enhance learning rate, for example. “It’s also been trialled on people with visual deficits, such as after stroke and traumatic brain injury.

“When you add this type of stimulation during learning, you get better performance, faster learning and better attention afterwards as well.”

Forming new pathways

Dr van der Groen said tRNS works by allowing the brain to form new connections and pathways, a process known as neuroplasticity. “If you learn something, there has to be neuroplastic changes in your brain, which allows you to learn this information,” he said. “And this is a tool to enhance this neuroplasticity.”

Dr van der Groen said tRNS had two effects on the brain: the ‘acute’ effect, which allows a person to perform better while undergoing tRNS, and the modulating effect which saw lasting results.

“If you do 10 sessions of a visual perception task with the tRNS and then come back and do it again without it, you’ll find you perform better than the control group who hasn’t used it,” he said.

“Limitless” potential?

The idea of expanding one’s learning potential via tech such as tRNS raises many questions.

While it’s most pertinent to those with deficiencies and difficulties in learning, it also begs the question as to whether a neurotypical person can take their intelligence to new levels, similar to the concept in the movie ‘Limitless’.

Dr van der Groen says the potential is there, but there are also signs it won’t create a ‘new level’ of intelligence. “The question is, if you’re neurotypical, are you already performing at your peak,” he said.

“There’s a case study where they tried to enhance the mathematical skills of a super mathematician; with him, it didn’t have much of an impact on his performance, presumably because he is already a top performer in that area. “But it could be used if you’re learning something new.”

Source- Science News Daily: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/09/220905085230.htm

Journal Reference:

  1. Onno van der Groen, Weronika Potok, Nicole Wenderoth, Grace Edwards, Jason B. Mattingley, Dylan Edwards. Using noise for the better: The effects of transcranial random noise stimulation on the brain and behaviorNeuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 2022; 138: 104702 DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2022.104702

Group VR experiences can produce ego attenuation and connectedness comparable to psychedelics

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Abstract

” With a growing body of research highlighting the therapeutic potential of experiential phenomenology which diminishes egoic identity and increases one’s sense of connectedness, there is significant interest in how to elicit such ‘self-transcendent experiences’ (STEs) in laboratory contexts. Psychedelic drugs (YDs) have proven particularly effective in this respect, producing subjective phenomenology which reliably elicits intense STEs. With virtual reality (VR) emerging as a powerful tool for constructing new perceptual environments, we describe a VR framework called ‘Isness-distributed’ (Isness-D) which harnesses the unique affordances of distributed multi-person VR to blur conventional self-other boundaries. Within Isness-D, groups of participants co-habit a shared virtual space, collectively experiencing their bodies as luminous energetic essences with diffuse spatial boundaries. It enables moments of ‘energetic coalescence’, a new class of embodied intersubjective experience where bodies can fluidly merge, enabling participants to include multiple others within their self-representation….”

Article: Glowacki, D.R., Williams, R.R., Wonnacott, M.D. et al. Group VR experiences can produce ego attenuation and connectedness comparable to psychedelics. Sci Rep 12, 8995 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-12637-z

Homeostatic normalization of alpha brain rhythms within the default-mode network and reduced symptoms in PTSD following a randomized controlled trial of EEG neurofeedback 

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Abstract

Collective research has identified a key electroencephalogram (EEG) signature in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), consisting of abnormally reduced alpha (8-12 Hz) rhythms. We conducted a 20-session, double-blind, randomized controlled trial of alpha-desynchronizing neurofeedback in patients with PTSD over 20-weeks. Our objective was to provide mechanistic evidence underlying potential clinical improvements by examining changes in aberrant PTSD brain rhythms (namely, alpha oscillations) as a function of neurofeedback treatment.

We randomly assigned participants with a primary diagnosis of PTSD (n = 38) to either an experimental group (n = 20) or sham-control group (n = 18). A multi-channel EEG cap was used to record whole-scalp resting-state activity pre- and post-neurofeedback treatment, for both the experimental and sham-control PTSD groups.

We firstly observed significantly reduced relative alpha source power at baseline in patients with PTSD as compared to an age/sex-matched group of neurotypical healthy controls (n = 32), primarily within regions of the anterior default mode network. Post-treatment, we found that only PTSD patients in the experimental NFB group demonstrated significant alpha resynchronization within areas that displayed abnormally low alpha power at baseline. In parallel, we observed significantly decreased PTSD severity scores in the experimental neurofeedback group only, when comparing baseline to post-treatment (Cohen’s d = 0.77) and 3-month follow-up scores (Cohen’s d = 0.75), with a remission rate of 60.0% at the 3-month follow-up.

Overall, our results indicate that neurofeedback training has the capacity to rescue pathologically reduced alpha rhythmicity, a functional biomarker that has repeatedly been linked to symptoms of hyperarousal and cortical disinhibition in PTSD. This randomized-controlled trial provides long-term evidence suggesting that the “alpha rebound effect” (i.e., homeostatic alpha resynchronization) occurs within key regions of the default mode network previously implicated in PTSD.

Mushrooms Magnify Memory by Boosting Nerve Growth

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Summary: Active compounds in the edible Lion’s Mane mushroom can help promote neurogenesis and enhance memory, a new study reports. Preclinical trials report the compound had a significant impact on neural growth and improved memory formation. Researchers say the compound could have clinical applications in treating and preventing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Source: Neuroscience News https://neurosciencenews.com/mushroom-memory-neurogenesis-22476/

Original article: https://doi.org/10.1111/jnc.15767

Functional connectivity of brain networks with three monochromatic wavelengths: a pilot study using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging

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Abstract

Exposure to certain monochromatic wavelengths can affect non-visual brain regions. Growing research indicates that exposure to light can have a positive impact on health-related problems such as spring asthenia, circadian rhythm disruption, and even bipolar disorders and Alzheimer’s. However, the extent and location of changes in brain areas caused by exposure to monochromatic light remain largely unknown. This pilot study (N = 7) using resting-state functional magnetic resonance shows light-dependent functional connectivity patterns on brain networks. We demonstrated that 1 min of blue, green, or red light exposure modifies the functional connectivity (FC) of a broad range of visual and non-visual brain regions. Largely, we observed: (i) a global decrease in FC in all the networks but the salience network after blue light exposure, (ii) a global increase in FC after green light exposure, particularly noticeable in the left hemisphere, and (iii) a decrease in FC on attentional networks coupled with a FC increase in the default mode network after red light exposure. Each one of the FC patterns appears to be best arranged to perform better on tasks associated with specific cognitive domains. Results can be relevant for future research on the impact of light stimulation on brain function and in a variety of health disciplines.

Glowacki, D.R., Williams, R.R., Wonnacott, M.D. et al. Group VR experiences can produce ego attenuation and connectedness comparable to psychedelics. Sci Rep 12, 8995 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-12637-z

Gut Microbiota, an Additional Hallmark of Human Aging and Neurodegeneration

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Highlights

  • Gut-brain axis is involve in aged-related neurological disorders like Alzheimer.
  • Oral and gut dysbiosis has been associated to biomarkers of cognitive decline.
  • Microbial-derived metabolites could modulate tau and β-amyloid deposition.
  • Gut microbiome could affect brain activity via epigenetic changes.
  • Oral and gut dysbiosis as additional hallmark of human aging and neurodegeneration.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306452223000921

Researchers find that rare rewards amplify dopamine responses during learning

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Dopamine responses are activated by rare rewards. A) Schematic drawings of the uniform (left) and normal (right) reward probability distributions. The expected values (EV) and positive and negative prediction errors (+PE and -PE, respectively) are all identical in both distributions. The only difference between the reward distributions is how frequently +PE and -PE occur. B) The responses from one dopamine neuron to identical rewards drawn from uniform (green) and normal (magenta) reward distributions. The top section shows Peri-Stimulus Time Histograms (PSTHs) aligned onto reward delivery (vertical dashed lines). The bottom section shows raster plots where every tick mark represents the timing of an action potential. The raster plots and PSTHs show that the larger rewards evoke positive prediction error response – the activations above zero – whereas smaller rewards evoke negative prediction error responses – the responses that dip below zero. Note that, despite + and – PE being identical in uniform and normal distributions, the responses to rewards drawn from the normal distribution are amplified, relative to the responses to rewards drawn from the uniform distribution. Thus, rare rewards amplify dopamine responses. Credit: Rothenhoefer et al.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-04-rare-rewards-amplify-dopamine-responses.html