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Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Helps To Curb Impulsivity

Researcher Chi-Hung JuanInhibitory control can be boosted with a mild form of brain stimulation, according to a study published in the June 2011 issue of Neuroimage, Elsevier’s Journal of Brain Function. The study’s findings indicate that non-invasive intervention can greatly improve patients’ inhibitory control. Conducted by a research team led by Dr. Chi-Hung Juan of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, National Central University in Taiwan, the research was sponsored by the National Science Council in Taiwan, the UK Medical Research Council, the Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award, and a Fulbright Award.

The study demonstrates that when a weak electrical current is applied over the front of participants’ scalps for ten minutes, it greatly improved their ability to process responses – effectively jumpstarting the brain’s ability to control impulsivity. The treatment has the potential to serve as a non invasive treatment for patients with conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette’s syndrome, drug addictions, or violent impulsivity.

Professor Chi-Hung Juan who led the research team noted, “The findings that electrical stimulation to the brain can improve control of their behavioral urges not only provide further understanding of the neural basis of inhibitory control but also suggest a possible therapeutic intervention method for clinical populations, such as those with drug additions or ADHD, in the future”.

Material adapted from Elsevier.

Tzu-Yu Hsu, Lin-Yuan Tseng, Jia-Xin Yu, Wen-Jui Kuo, Daisy L. Hung, Ovid J.L. Tzeng, Vincent Walsh, Neil G. Muggleton and Chi-Hung Juan. (2011). Modulating inhibitory control with direct current stimulation of the superior medial frontal cortex. NeuroImage. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.03.059

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2 Responses to Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Helps To Curb Impulsivity

  1. avatar
    Jack McIntyre June 16, 2011 at 3:28 PM #

    Assuming this is tDCS (transcranial direct current stimulation), how is sending an electrical current into the brain “non-invasive”?

  2. avatar
    Christopher Fisher, PhD June 16, 2011 at 3:36 PM #

    The researchers didn’t mention the type of current in their press release of study results. I’ll have to take a look at the original article.

    But regarding the non-invasive nature of the treatment, non-invasive here is meant that they didn’t have to break the skin or to surgically implant anything. For example, CES (cranial electrotherapy stimulation) is considered non-invasive because it is delivered via ear clips. Of course, the electrical current reaches the brain so it is invasive in that since.

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