The pulse technique could be used to enhance intellectual capacity and help those with learning difficulties
Researchers discovered that the ability of the brain to learn a task and remember it was greatly enhanced when a magnetic pulse was applied to the premotor cortex – the area of the brain just behind the forehead.
The team at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, led by Dr Lara Boyd, believe that the technique could be used to enhance intellectual capacity and help those with learning difficulties.
Dr Boyd tested the ability of 30 volunteers to track a target on a computer screen with a red dot using a joystick.
During the task, the target would move randomly, then enter a programmed pattern and finally return to moving randomly. The participants were not aware of the repeated section, believing that movements were random throughout.
Some of the volunteers had their brain stimulated by magnets while others did not.
Those participants who had received the stimulation were significantly better than the other groups at tracking the target during the repeated section of the test.
They showed no significant difference in improvement during the random sections.
Dr Boyd, who published her findings in the journal BMC Neuroscience, said they showed that magnetic stimulation could boost learning skills and eventually lead to a “thinking cap”.
“With this tool we hope to be able to promote learning in patient populations who otherwise have great difficulty in acquiring new motor skills,” she said.
“In fact we are actively investigating this possibility right now in my lab.”
* Meanwhile there is new hope for phobia sufferers after scientists identify the part of the brain from which fear originates.
Using brain imaging the University of Washington researchers have pinpointed the basolateral nucleus in the region of the brain called the of amygdala in the centre of the brain.
The team who published their findings in the Public Library of Science One journal said one day it could lead to “incapacitating fears or phobias that interferes with normal functions”.