Start Testing Now!

I think that for me, the thing to do now that I’ve found http://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com, even before I have a tDCS device, is to see if I can affect my test score outcomes using a variety of ‘brain hacks’. For example, this list from Jonah Lehrer http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2012/05/features/the-new-rules-of-creativity?page=all Jonah also mentions in various podcasts I’ve listened to around the release of his latest book, “Imagine, How Creativity Works” that both cannabis and alcohol can improve performance on certain kinds of challenges. (Those benefiting from an active right hemisphere.) Imagine having tested sufficiently to be able to state, for instance, that: Under the influence of two 12oz bottles of Guinness consumed within a period of 30 minutes, I was able to increase my Monkey Ladder score by a solid 10%.

From the same Jonah Lehrer Wired article…

When it’s looked in all the obvious places to no avail, you experience mental deadlock. This is a signal to the brain that a new search process is required.

2. Brain activity now shifts to the right hemisphere. According to neuroscientist Mark Beeman, this side is responsible for seeing the big picture. Now you can grasp subtle connotations — the punchline of a joke or the meaning of a metaphor. The switch allows you to explore unexpected associations and perspectives.

3. Thirty seconds before your “aha” moment, there is a sudden burst of brain activity called a “gamma-wave rhythm” which, says Beeman, is the highest electrical frequency generated by the brain. It comes from neurons forming new connections. The spurt of activity comes from the anterior superior temporal gyrus, located on the right hemisphere, just above the ear.

Tali Sharot: The optimism bias

At around minute 13, Tali Sharot describes how she and collaborator Dr Ryota Kanai were able to influence the outcome of experiments designed to test optimism bias by applying TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation). Amazing!

Dr. Tali Sharot at Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College of London
Dr Ryota Kanai
Search for ‘transcranial direct current’ at ICN

One way to think about this (very generally) is that, in this case, TMS had both a positive and negative impact. This should also serve as cautionary to anyone self-experimenting with tDCS.

I recently reached out to Dr. Mark Beeman of Northwestern around the subject of testing the efficacy of tDCS especially in the context of DIY. I became aware of Dr. Beeman’s work through the new Jonah Lehrer book, ‘Imagine’. (I haven’t read it actually, but have listened to Lehrer discuss the book at length in numerous podcasts.) Dr. Beeman took the time to respond to my email stating that he was in fact at work on some experiments that use tDCS. About self-experiments, he had this to say…

I’d be hesitant to do too much self-experimentation. Not that I worry about causing direct damage, but brain activity is often a delicate balance, and enhancing some process may have adverse effects on another.

I also heard back from the  Laboratory of Cognition and Neural Stimulation at the University of Pennsylvania. They are who posted the questionnaire. Basically it was just a follow-up email asking more questions. I have yet to correspond with anyone personally and they have so far signed their emails as Research Specialist.