Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists improve human self-control through electrical brain stimulation

Date:
December 13, 2013
Source:
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Summary:
If you have ever said or done the wrong thing at the wrong time, you should read this. Neuroscientists have successfully demonstrated a technique to enhance a form of self-control through a novel form of brain stimulation.

Research by UTHealth neurosurgeon Nitin Tandon, M.D., and his colleagues is furthering the understanding of how the brain brakes impulsive behavior.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center

If you have ever said or done the wrong thing at the wrong time, you should read this. Neuroscientists at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and the University of California, San Diego, have successfully demonstrated a technique to enhance a form of self-control through a novel form of brain stimulation.

Study participants were asked to perform a simple behavioral task that required the braking/slowing of action -- inhibition -- in the brain. In each participant, the researchers first identified the specific location for this brake in the prefrontal region of the brain. Next, they increased activity in this brain region using stimulation with brief and imperceptible electrical charges. This led to increased braking -- a form of enhanced self-control.

This proof-of-principle study appears in the Dec. 11 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience and its methods may one day be useful for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette's syndrome and other severe disorders of self-control.

"There is a circuit in the brain for inhibiting or braking responses," said Nitin Tandon, M.D., the study's senior author and associate professor in The Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery at the UTHealth Medical School. "We believe we are the first to show that we can enhance this braking system with brain stimulation."

A computer stimulated the prefrontal cortex exactly when braking was needed. This was done using electrodes implanted directly on the brain surface.

When the test was repeated with stimulation of a brain region outside the prefrontal cortex, there was no effect on behavior, showing the effect to be specific to the prefrontal braking system.

This was a double-blind study, meaning that participants and scientists did not know when or where the charges were being administered.

The method of electrical stimulation was novel in that it apparently enhanced prefrontal function, whereas other human brain stimulation studies mostly disrupt normal brain activity. This is the first published human study to enhance prefrontal lobe function using direct electrical stimulation, the researchers report.

The study involved four volunteers with epilepsy who agreed to participate while being monitored for seizures at the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (TMC). Stimulation enhanced braking in all four participants.

Tandon has been working on self-control research with researchers at the University of California, San Diego, for five years. "Our daily life is full of occasions when one must inhibit responses. For example, one must stop speaking when it's inappropriate to the social context and stop oneself from reaching for extra candy," said Tandon, who is a neurosurgeon with the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann-TMC.

The researchers are quick to point out that while their results are promising, they do not yet point to the ability to improve self-control in general. In particular, this study does not show that direct electrical stimulation is a realistic option for treating human self-control disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette's syndrome and borderline personality disorder. Notably, direct electrical stimulation requires an invasive surgical procedure, which is now used only for the localization and treatment of severe epilepsy.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jan R. Wessel, Christopher R. Conner, Adam R. Aron, And Nitin Tandon. Chronometric Electrical Stimulation of Right Inferior Frontal Cortex Increases Motor Braking. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2013 DOI: %u200B10.%u200B1523/%u200BJNEUROSCI.%u200B3468-13.%u200B2013

Cite This Page:

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. "Scientists improve human self-control through electrical brain stimulation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131213094949.htm>.
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. (2013, December 13). Scientists improve human self-control through electrical brain stimulation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131213094949.htm
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. "Scientists improve human self-control through electrical brain stimulation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131213094949.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Electrical Stimulation Boosts Brain Function, Study Says

Electrical Stimulation Boosts Brain Function, Study Says

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) Researchers found an improvement in memory and learning function in subjects who received electric pulses to their brains. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins