Adam Gazzaley |

Adam Gazzaley TedX Sonoma 2015

Adam Gazzaley TedX Sonoma 2015

We’ve covered Dr. Adam Gazzaley director of the Gazzaley Lab at UCSF previously so I was excited to see he was being interviewed for one of my favorite podcasts, ShrinkrapRadio by Dr. David Van Nuys. I’m a big fan of Dr. Dave and have been enjoying his interviews with top psychologists for years. (Especially those with Jungian analysts.) I’ve clipped an excerpt of the interview that deals directly with tDCS and brain stimulation below but I highly recommend checking out the entire episode as it provides an excellent framework for understanding the notion of brain training using technology including video games designed specifically to enhance memory and cognition.

In this clip Dr. Gazzaley lays out what clearly is the near-future of non-invasive brain stimulation… You’re playing a video game that has been optimized to enhance working memory (for example). At the same time your EEG is being monitored for brain activity. According to the EEG data, tDCS (tACS, tRNS etc) is activated for the purpose of enhancing activity in that region of your brain. As your game accuracy increases, the game adapts to increase difficulty to an optimum training level. Loop!

Here’s a 2 minute clip from Dr. Dave’s interview with Adam Gazzaley

Dr. Gazzaley’s (@adamgazz co-founder with @EddieMartucci) company, Akili (@AkiliLabs), just announced (1/22/16)  $30.5 million in funding. Interesting, Akili is part of the PureTech (@PureTechH) family of companies we covered recently (Tal Medical).

A few of Dr. Gazzaley’s papers you might find interesting.
Video game training enhances cognitive control in older adults Nature (pdf)
Effects of noninvasive brain stimulation on cognitive function in healthy aging and Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. (pdf)

Dr Gazzaley’s  (Nov 2015) Ted Talk

If She Were Your Daughter – Ritalin, Adderall or tDCS?

Update 11/18/12 New Scientist has just posted a video showing (I believe) the device and test that will be used in Roi Cohen Kadosh’s upcoming study to study the efficacy of tDCS to enhance math abilities. Brain-zapping Kinect game boosts mathematical skills

The recent PBS article Boosting Kids’ Brain Power nicely documents the work of University of Oxford’s Dr. Roi Cohen Kadosh in testing and developing protocols for improving math and learning skills with tDCS. Through interviews, PBS follows the thinking of parents exploring the possibility of using tDCS to help their kid’s difficulties with learning math. One parent compares the possible harms of tDCS vs. pharmaceutical approaches and I think this is the key question. You can listen to the piece on the article page, or download the mp3 here.

The PBS story follows a trend on the uptick: Brain enhancement and the ethics thereof.  In How Science Can Build a Better You, David Ewing Duncan tells us:

Over the last couple of years during talks and lectures, I have asked thousands of people a hypothetical question that goes like this: “If I could offer you a pill that allowed your child to increase his or her memory by 25 percent, would you give it to them?”

The show of hands in this informal poll has been overwhelming, with 80 percent or more voting no.

Then I asked a follow-up question. “What if this pill was safe and increased your kid’s grades from a B average to an A average?” People tittered nervously, looked around to see how others were voting as nearly half said yes. (Many didn’t vote at all.)

“And what if all of the other kids are taking the pill?” I asked. The tittering stopped and nearly everyone voted yes.

Another NY Times article Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill points out the extent to which kids are already using pharmaceuticals, illegally, to enhance brain power.

The boy exhaled. Before opening the car door, he recalled recently, he twisted open a capsule of orange powder and arranged it in a neat line on the armrest. He leaned over, closed one nostril and snorted it.

Throughout the parking lot, he said, eight of his friends did the same thing.

The drug was not cocaine or heroin, but Adderall, an amphetamine prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that the boy said he and his friends routinely shared to study late into the night, focus during tests and ultimately get the grades worthy of their prestigious high school in an affluent suburb of New York City. The drug did more than just jolt them awake for the 8 a.m. SAT; it gave them a tunnel focus tailor-made for the marathon of tests long known to make or break college applications.

All of this points to an alarming skewing of culture and values I have no business addressing. It is easy for me to say however, that if my son or daughter were facing issues around attention or learning abilities, I’d certainly want the option of a proven, effective, and safe tDCS treatment before I’d consider a pharmaceutical approach.

To that end I wish Roi Cohen Kadish and his team at Oxford the best in their ongoing trials. See Also: Electrical brain stimulation improves math skills New Scientist
‘Human enhancement’ comes a step closer BBC
Brain stimulation ‘not a magic pill’ BBC Audio
The ethics of brain boosting Oxford

Juri Kropotov – Institute of the Human Brain of Russian Academy

Another significant player popped up today. Juri Kropotov (bio) Institute of the Human Brain of the Russian Academy of Sciences. You can download his 2006 Powerpoint presentation, “Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS): a new old tool in neurotherapy” Here. You can see the Google Quick View version (and print it) here. Of special interest may be Kropotov’s use of tDCS in treating ADHD.

Juri Kropotov