Mind machines – the promise and problems of cognitive enhancement devices

In this video Roi Cohen Kadosh (Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Oxford) likens the use tDCS without a task and purpose, to an athlete taking steroids and not exercising. He discusses recent papers coming out of his lab and describes the research that resulted in this paper: Combining brain stimulation and video game to promote long-term transfer of learning and cognitive enhancement. Kadosh points out that while tDCS did enhance performance in a math challenge, it simultaneously had a negative impact on another. Following Kadosh, Dr Hannah Maslen discusses DIY and DTC tDCS in the context of regulation in the EU.

Those who received real tDCS performed significantly better in the game than the sham group, and showed transfer effects to working memory, a related but non-numerical cognitive domain. This transfer effect was absent in active and sham control groups. Furthermore, training gains were more pronounced amongst those with lower baseline cognitive abilities, suggesting the potential for reducing cognitive inequalities. All effects associated with real tDCS remained 2 months post-training. Our study demonstrates the potential benefit of this approach for long-term enhancement of human learning and cognition.

Here’s how we should regulate brain enhancement devices

“Until recently, it had been the preserve of the DIY tDCS community: people would construct their own devices from batteries, wires and electrodes,” Maslen says. “Now, an online market has emerged for whole-unit devices specifically manufactured for non-therapeutic tDCS.” Demand appears to be highest from gamers, who are looking for a hidden edge, whether it’s greater focus or faster reaction times.

Until laboratory experiments prove conclusively that these devices can improve certain cognitive functions in healthy individuals, say the Oxford researchers, the primary regulatory principle should be that all cognitive enhancement devices — even ones not marketed for medical and therapeutic purposes — should be regulated as medical devices.

via Here’s how we should regulate brain enhancement devices.