How electric brain stimulation can enhance learning

by Brett Henebery31 Jul 2017
Earlier this month, a landmark study examining brain-training games found that they have no more effect on healthy brains than standard video games.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, involved 128 young adults who were tested for mental performance after playing either Luminosity brain-training games or regular video games for 10 weeks.

According to the results, there was no evidence that the specialised brain-training games led to any improvements in decision-making, sustained attention or memory.

Now, research says that using a ‘cross-training’ regimen may help improve a learner’s ability to develop skills versus solo cognitive training.

The study, published by Nature Research, calls ‘multimodal training’,  a process that has been shown to “significantly enhance” learning among the 318 participating volunteers.

The authors of the report said the potential impact of brain training methods for enhancing human cognition in healthy and clinical populations has motivated increasing public interest and scientific scrutiny.

“At issue is the merits of intervention modalities, such as computer-based cognitive training, physical exercise training, and non-invasive brain stimulation, and whether such interventions synergistically enhance cognition,” the report’s authors stated.

“To investigate this issue, we conducted a comprehensive 4-month randomized controlled trial in which 318 healthy, young adults were enrolled in one of five interventions”.

The five interventions were computer-based cognitive training; cognitive and physical exercise training; cognitive training combined with non-invasive brain stimulation and physical exercise training; active control training in adaptive visual search and change detection tasks; and passive control.

The findings demonstrated that multimodal training significantly enhanced learning (relative to computer-based cognitive training alone) and provided an effective method to promote skill learning across multiple cognitive domains.

These domains spanned from executive functions and working memory to planning and problem solving.

“These results help to establish the beneficial effects of multimodal intervention and identify key areas for future research in the continued effort to improve human cognition,” the report stated.

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