Electrical Stimulation Can Improve Cognitive Performance―May Help in Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder

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Donel M. Martin, Ph.D. - Brain and behavior research expert on schizophrenia
Donel M. Martin, Ph.D.

A team of doctors and scientists in Australia, three of whom have been supported by Foundation NARSAD Grants, have concluded the most thorough test to date of a novel method of increasing the brain’s cognitive abilities. These abilities, which include working memory, processing speed, executive function and reaction time, are degraded in illnesses including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The method, called transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS, has already been used to help stroke victims recover, and has been tested on patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. As noted by Donel M. Martin, Ph.D., of the University of New South Wales, who has studied tDCS using a 2010 NARSAD Young Investigator Grant, the method “can potentially help the brain to relearn through facilitating local brain activity and inhibiting competing brain regions.”

tDCS is a non-invasive technique in which a very weak direct electrical current is passed through the cerebral cortex via electrodes placed on the scalp. Dr. Martin and colleagues, who included Melissa Green, Ph.D., a 2006 NARSAD Young Investigator Grantee, and Colleen K. Loo, M.D., Ph.D., a 2007 NARSAD Independent Investigator Grantee, tested the cognitive performance of 56 healthy people. The participants each took 10 computer-administered cognitive training sessions. Some received tDCS during the sessions; others did not.

Results, which appeared in the October issue of the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, showed the group that got tDCS stimulation while training performed better than the group that did not. But the improvement lasted only as long as the computer training session; there was no “learning effect” that carried over to subsequent sessions. Improvement was muted when the same groups were tested on a different set of tasks a month later. Nevertheless, the investigators conclude that tDCS, properly administered, “may have a role in enhancing outcomes” that extend beyond treatment sessions themselves.

Read the abstract of this research.

Article comments

I think that Schizoprenia and Bi-Polar Disorder could be helped by electrical stimulation have seen it first hand both of these could be caused by Hemochromatosis and Diseases associated with it and all patients should be tested when presenting with either. Toxoplasmosis in particular it could be that with electrical stimulation you are killing the parasite and cysts form

As medications are very unknown regarding outcomes. Ares such as Jennetics ref. Dr. Jenness Choropractor, Ayurvedic understanding ref Deepak Chopra, other research in electrochemical imbalance and area not yet associated Faraday's work with electromagnetic induction. A combination of studies in areas other than and as well as medication hold possibilities.
Michael Dillon michaeldillon185@yahoo.com.au Ph 0497 783 720

It works for some and doesn't work for everyone. It was my last resort so i had the first one and they said they did two treatments, worked great for two years and i won't comment on when it stopped working. Years later i tried again and this Doctor gave me 12 treatments. Well you would think I'll feel great now. Well not for me, the second time i went for the treatment, they did nothing for me just like none of the meds. don't work either.

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Please note that researchers cannot give specific recommendations or advice about treatment; diagnosis and treatment are complex and highly individualized processes that require comprehensive face-to- face assessment. Please visit our "Ask an Expert" section to see a list of Q & A with NARSAD Grantees.
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