New Scientist on brain optimisation

newsci_brainop.jpgNew Scientist have put their cover article on brain optimising technologies online – which covers everything from nutrition to neurofeedback.

Their story, 11 steps to a better brain, looks at the science behind techniques that have been shown to boost mental performance.

Some of the techniques are fairly common-sense approaches, like sleeping well and exercising, although the article explains exactly how these might affect thought and behaviour.

Others are a little more controversial and potentially hazardous, such as the use of stimulant drugs like modafinil and methylphenidate.

One particularly interesting part however, is the mention of mental training techniques to boost wider cognitive performance.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans, they measured the brain activity of adults before and after a working-memory training programme, which involved tasks such as memorising the positions of a series of dots on a grid. After five weeks of training, their brain activity had increased in the regions associated with this type of memory.

Perhaps more significantly, when the group studied children who had completed these types of mental workouts, they saw improvement in a range of cognitive abilities not related to the training, and a leap in IQ test scores of 8 per cent

Interestingly, similar techniques are now being applied to traditionally hard-to-treat conditions such as schizophrenia that have been shown to have a positive impact on cognitive performance and brain function.

Link to 11 steps to a better brain.

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