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posted by martyb on Tuesday October 24 2017, @01:16AM   Printer-friendly
from the no-more-monkeying-around dept.

HRL Laboratories (a research center owned by General Motors and Boeing) has found that transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) can improve learning:

Done in collaboration with McGill University in Montreal and Soterix Medical in New York, the study was sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA)'s Restoring Active Memory (RAM) program. Published October 12, 2017, in the journal Current Biology, tDCS in animals showed learning accelerated by about 40% when given 2 mA noninvasively to the prefrontal cortex without increased neuronal firing. This study showed it was modulated connectivity between brain areas, not neuron firing rates, that accounted for the increased learning speed.

The behavioral task in this experiment was associative learning. The macaques had to learn arbitrary associations between a visual stimulus and a location where they would get a reward—a visual foraging task. The initial foraging trials took about 15 seconds, and once the animal learned the location of the reward, it took approximately 2 seconds to recall and find the target. Subjects in the control condition required an average of 22 trials to learn to obtain the reward right way[sic]. With tDCS they required an average of 12 trials.

"In this experiment we targeted the prefrontal cortex with individualized non-invasive stimulation montages," said Dr. Praveen Pilly, HRL's principal investigator on the study. "That is the region that controls many executive functions including decision-making, cognitive control, and contextual memory retrieval. It is connected to almost all the other cortical areas of the brain, and stimulating it has widespread effects. It is also the target of choice in most published behavioral enhancement studies and case studies with transcranial stimulation. We placed the tDCS electrodes on the scalp in both our control and stimulation conditions. The behavioral effect was revealed when they learned to find the reward faster."

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Facilitates Associative Learning and Alters Functional Connectivity in the Primate Brain (DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.09.020) (DX)

Previously: Cognitive Enhancement May Not be All It's Cracked Up To Be.
Zapping Your Brain may Reduce Depression, Ease Pain


Original Submission

Related Stories

Cognitive Enhancement May Not be All It's Cracked Up To Be. 17 comments

Humans in 2015 have a small arsenal of tools available to at least temporarily upgrade our brains via the increasingly popular paradigm of "cognitive enhancement."

This is a different boost than that offered by sketchy as-seen-on-NPR brain training schemes, offering literal, physiological neuro-manipulations via either chemistry or electricity. It's no secret that drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are widely sought after among healthy populations looking for an extra push, while electronic stimulant headsets are seeing a somewhat quieter or at least less fretted-about rise. Do they really work? We mostly don't know, warns cognitive neuroscientist Martha Farah in this week's issue of Science.

Original paper available here, or you can just read the vice.motherboard.com article.


Original Submission

Zapping Your Brain may Reduce Depression, Ease Pain 36 comments

From the do-taze-me-bro dept.

An article over at Medical Xpress details study results published on 4 October, 2016 in Nature Scientific Reports [Full paper], from a group of neuroscientists investigating the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), using MRI imaging.

From the Medical Xpress article:

Rather than taking medication, a growing number of people who suffer from chronic pain, epilepsy and drug cravings are zapping their skulls in the hopes that a weak electric current will jolt them back to health.

This brain hacking—"transcranial direct current stimulation" (tDCS)—is used to treat neurological and psychiatric symptoms. A do-it-yourself community has sprouted on Reddit, providing unconventional tips for how to use a weak electric current to treat everything from depression to schizophrenia. People are even using commercial tDCS equipment to improve their gaming ability. But tDCS is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and scientists are split on its efficacy, with some calling it quackery and bad science.

Here's the issue: Until now, scientists have been unable to look under the hood of this do-it-yourself therapeutic technique to understand what is happening. Danny JJ Wang, a professor of neurology at the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute, said his team is the first to develop an MRI method whereby the magnetic fields induced by tDCS currents can be visualized in living humans. Their results were published Oct. 4 in Scientific Reports, a Nature Publishing Group journal.

"Although this therapy is taking off at the grassroots level and in academia [with an exponential increase in publications], evidence that tDCS does what is being promised is not conclusive," said Wang, the study's senior author. "Scientists don't yet understand the mechanisms at work, which prevents the FDA from regulating the therapy. Our study is the first step to experimentally map the tDCS currents in the brain and to provide solid data so researchers can develop science-based treatment."

People in antiquity used electric fish to zap away headaches, but tDCS, as it is now known, was introduced in 2000, said Mayank Jog, study lead author and a graduate student conducting research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

"Since then, this noninvasive, easy-to-use, low-cost technology has been shown to improve cognition as well as treat clinical symptoms," Jog said.

So what say you, Soylentils? Ready to cut that electrical cord, plug it into the wall and stick it in your ear? I'm sure there are quite a few who'd be willing to assist!


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0, Troll) by Gaaark on Tuesday October 24 2017, @01:29AM (6 children)

    by Gaaark (41) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 24 2017, @01:29AM (#586676) Homepage Journal

    Is this where a he-she gives you head?

    --
    --- That's not flying: that's... falling... with more luck than I have. ---
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Arik on Tuesday October 24 2017, @02:22AM (5 children)

      by Arik (4543) on Tuesday October 24 2017, @02:22AM (#586687)
      transcranial: adjective; passing or performed through the skull.

      So yes, I suppose it would fit your case as well, though it's actually being used in a different sense in the article.
      --
      "Unix? These savages aren't even circumcised!"
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @06:09AM (4 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @06:09AM (#586742)

        Dude, please. Is there anything you can do to fix the font you use? It appears to everyone else that it has an extra space between each word and is smaller than the default. It's really annoying to read. Ya, ya, friends don't let friends enable whatever the hell script you don't like, but give us a break and use something readable. /end off topic rant.

        • (Score: 0, Offtopic) by Paradise Pete on Tuesday October 24 2017, @11:00AM (3 children)

          by Paradise Pete (1806) on Tuesday October 24 2017, @11:00AM (#586798)

          Dude, please. Is there anything you can do to fix the font you use?

          He's doing that intentionally by the use of the <tt> (teletype text) tag. It's rather annoying.

          • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Tuesday October 24 2017, @11:16AM (2 children)

            by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Tuesday October 24 2017, @11:16AM (#586800) Journal

            Change theme to VT100 (best theme) and everyone shows up as monospaced.

            --
            [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
            • (Score: 2) by DECbot on Tuesday October 24 2017, @02:27PM (1 child)

              by DECbot (832) on Tuesday October 24 2017, @02:27PM (#586868) Journal

              I was wondering why I didn't see what the GP post was talking about.

              --
              cats~$ sudo chown -R us /home/base
              • (Score: 1) by Arik on Tuesday October 24 2017, @05:18PM

                by Arik (4543) on Tuesday October 24 2017, @05:18PM (#586950)
                I also use VT-100 theme. In addition, only monospaced fonts are available in my browser. So that's what I see even when the theme engine on the server dies.

                I was originally neutral on mangled fonts (not sure why you want them but you do so sure, have fun) but I've come to see them as perverse and destructive. Text has one job; to transmit information. Reducing readability in the name of fashion is poor practice, and if you think you want it you should probably re-examine your premises.
                --
                "Unix? These savages aren't even circumcised!"
  • (Score: 1) by DECbot on Tuesday October 24 2017, @02:46AM (8 children)

    by DECbot (832) on Tuesday October 24 2017, @02:46AM (#586698) Journal

    Unleash the Matrix comments! Direct brain uploads from mini-disks is our future! I wonder what the official bit-rot rate of the human brain is?

    --
    cats~$ sudo chown -R us /home/base
    • (Score: 2) by mhajicek on Tuesday October 24 2017, @05:36AM (7 children)

      by mhajicek (51) on Tuesday October 24 2017, @05:36AM (#586730)

      US military has been doing this to speed training of drone pilots for years now.

      • (Score: 4, Informative) by lx on Tuesday October 24 2017, @05:41AM (6 children)

        by lx (1915) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 24 2017, @05:41AM (#586731)

        So that's why they are mostly hitting innocent bystanders.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by c0lo on Tuesday October 24 2017, @05:48AM (4 children)

          by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 24 2017, @05:48AM (#586736)

          US military has been doing this to speed training of drone pilots for years now.

          So that's why they are mostly hitting innocent bystanders.

          Because not only they learned the lesson fast, but they learned it as taught.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @09:03AM (3 children)

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @09:03AM (#586782)

            If only those who fight die in war, there is too little anti-war sentiment. Killing civilians into submission was always the primary goal of all wars. Killing opponent's armed forces was just a necessary first step before civilians are reached. That's why it is laughable, yet sad, when some people comment that robotized wars will be more humane. War is killing civilians, and optionally also killing soldiers (or destroying robots), if they stand in the way and protect their civilians.

            • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @09:57AM (2 children)

              by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @09:57AM (#586795)

              Killing civilians into submission was always the primary goal of all wars. Killing opponent's armed forces was just a necessary first step before civilians are reached.

              Completely wrong. Why kill potential slaves and workforce? These are valuable resources.

              The Mongols and others got huge empires because they didn't kill everybody. If your city agrees to pay tribute and join the "Borg" (even supplying troops; old king same shit as the new king so might as well join the winning team) then few or even nobody dies. But if there is resistance, they torture and kill everybody in your city (maybe they leave a few alive to spread more details of what they did to other cities and towns).

              The reason why the USA's killing of civilians stuff doesn't work is because:
              1) Killing all the civilians of some random small country would make the USA lose more (trade, goodwill, etc with other countries). Nowadays the USA makes more $$$$$$ through trade than it could ever make from conquering a country. The profit from war is more from its own citizens (e.g. US taxes going to the Military Industrial Complex).

              2) If you're not able or willing to kill everybody then you have to be more careful about who you kill. Too often the USA kills enough civilians to piss off significant numbers of civilians into joining the fight against the USA. So they keep making more enemies than they kill.

              But creating messes is often part of the plan. For example the USA didn't want to destroy the ISIS, but just contain them. The ISIS was a convenient bunch to help the USA's real intention to overthrow/destroy Syria.

              • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Tuesday October 24 2017, @06:04PM (1 child)

                by DeathMonkey (1380) on Tuesday October 24 2017, @06:04PM (#586970) Journal

                The reason why the USA's killing of civilians stuff doesn't work is because:

                Let's not listen!

                Trump has already killed more civilians than Obama [newsweek.com]

                • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @06:38PM

                  by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @06:38PM (#586989)

                  Harry Truman had over 150,000 civilians[1] murdered in the span of 3 days in acts which top brass have said were militarily unnecessary.

                  [1] ...with a third of those being children.

                  In his "Untold History of the United States", Oliver Stone uses some very unkind words to describe that guy, pointing out that Truman was a war criminal and a monster. [google.com]

                  -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

        • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Tuesday October 24 2017, @02:41PM

          by hemocyanin (186) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 24 2017, @02:41PM (#586873)

          Fuck -- do I mod this insightful? Funny?

  • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @05:42AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @05:42AM (#586732)

    Sebastian Gorka, who is not a Nazi, and only just an honorary member of a Hungarian party that collaborated with the Nazi occupation of a Slavic homeland, in preparation for the Final Solution to the Slav problem, which never actually happened, although it was being actively planned for, could have benefited from this Anal-cranial Insertion technology! In fact, I believe our own jmorris is a past master at the technique! But seriously, they tried the Real Thing on Richard Spenser, but his head exploded, putting an end to his dream of a independent and free White Nation, populated solely by the fruit of his loins. His loins also exploded in the experiment.

    This verifies that ancient saying, that for some people, a single idea would be enought to split their head wide open. Poor Spendser. Poor khallow. Poor Buzzard.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @08:13AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @08:13AM (#586768)

    Since I'm not adventurous enough to attach electrodes to my balls, I sure am not adventurous enough to attach those electrodes to my brain. YYMV.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @08:31AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @08:31AM (#586773)

      *scalp

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @11:26AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @11:26AM (#586802)

    Animals were seated in front of a monitor that subtended 30 360 degrees of visual angle at a viewing distance of 40 cm. Eye position
    and pupil area were monitored at 500 Hz with an infrared eye tracking system (SR Research; Ontario).

    Our experimental paradigm was an adaptation of one previously shown to provide a useful probe of associative learning in humans
    [29]. Each trial began with the appearance of a black fixation spot on a gray screen. Animals were required to fixate within 2 deg. of the
    spot for 750-1000 ms, after which a full-screen image appeared. Images were chosen from a collection of Creative-Commons and
    public domain photographs of natural scenes and patterns (flickr.com). Different images were selected for every day of recording.

    Within each image on each day, a small (2� radius) patch at a random location was designated as the response zone (RZ). The RZ
    was initially not cued, and animals were allowed to freely view the image for 15 (Monkey F) or 20 s (Monkey M). If their gaze remained
    within the RZ for at least 100 ms, they received a large drop of juice and the trial ended. However, when subjects could not find the RZ
    within the allotted time, a high contrast cue appeared within it, and subjects received a much smaller reward for fixating the cue.

    To increase the task difficulty, the RZ’s position was jittered according to a bivariate normal distribution (s = 1� or 4�). Each block
    contained 2-3 image/RZ pairs, presented 75-100 times each. The image order was randomized. We also interleaved control trials, in
    which the animal received a small reward for making a saccade to the same cue, presented against a neutral gray background. These
    trials ensured that the eye tracker remained calibrated and reduced carry-over effects between trials.

    From the methods, I don't see how they can tell the difference between making monkeys learn better vs making them enjoy juice more (and hence more likely to cooperate with the task).

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by hemocyanin on Tuesday October 24 2017, @02:45PM (1 child)

      by hemocyanin (186) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 24 2017, @02:45PM (#586877)

      Maybe you don't have to teach monkeys to like flavored sugar. You sure don't have to teach humans to like it.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @07:59PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @07:59PM (#587067)

        I'm not talking about teaching them to like it. I'm referring to the possibility the stimulation affects the sense of taste:

        (A burning or tingling sensation or a metallic taste in the mouth is a common side effect, though some people don’t feel anything at all.)

        https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/06/electrified [newyorker.com]

        The strangest side effect I experienced was a mild metallic taste in my mouth, but it was not too bothersome. (At first I thought I was imagining such a sensation, but I later read some reports from others reporting the same issue.)

        http://adifferentdrum.org/my-brain-on-electricity-a-130-day-tdcs-experiment/ [adifferentdrum.org]

        I personally experience a metallic taste in my mouth but this is common.

        http://www.instructables.com/id/tDCS-Thinking-Cap/ [instructables.com]

        If a monkey has a bad taste in its mouth, perhaps it will be more motivated to consume something with a pleasant flavor. Is this so crazy of an idea?

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