Tags: electric | brain | stimulation | iq

Electrical Brain Stimulation Found to Lower IQ

By    |   Wednesday, 06 May 2015 02:47 PM

Electrical brain stimulation has become an increasingly popular treatment for depression, Parkinson’s disease, and other mental-health conditions. But new research has uncovered a serious downside.

A new University of North Carolina School of Medicine study shows that using the most common form of weak electrical brain stimulation had a statistically significant detrimental effect on IQ scores.

The findings, published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, add to the increasing amount of literature showing that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has mixed results when it comes to cognitive enhancement.

"It would be wonderful if we could use tDCS to enhance cognition because then we could potentially use it to treat cognitive impairment in psychiatric illnesses," said Flavio Frohlich, an assistant professor of psychiatry who helped conduct the research. "So, this study is bad news.

"Yet, the finding makes sense. It means that some of the most sophisticated things the brain can do, in terms of cognition, can't necessarily be altered with just a constant electric current."

Interest in tDCS was sparked by German scientists who published a paper in 2000 showing it could change the excitability of neurons in the motor cortex, the brain region that controls voluntary body movement. Since then, it has been used to enhance memory and cognitive acuity, and treat depression, Parkinson’s, and schizophrenia.

But the new research, which tracked two sets of IQ tests on 40 healthy adults who underwent the technique, found they scored more poorly on the second round of testing than those who did not.

Frohlich stressed that the scientific community should be careful not to create simplistic storylines about tDCS being a 'magic pill' for many brain-related conditions.

"There could be dangerous consequences, especially if tDCS is used daily," he said. "I think our study demonstrates that we need to think of smarter ways to engage the brain to really target the specific brain dynamics involved in what we want to improve, such as cognition for people with depression or schizophrenia."

The National Institutes of Health funded the study.

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Electrical brain stimulation has become a popular treatment for depression and other mental-health conditions. But new research suggests it may have a detrimental effect on IQ.
electric, brain, stimulation, iq
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 02:47 PM
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