NEW YORK ( Dispatches) -- Scientists report that they can now improve specific human brain functions related to self-control and mental flexibility by merging artificial intelligence with targeted electrical brain stimulation.
The study was carried out at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston among 12 patients undergoing brain surgery for epilepsy -- a procedure that places hundreds of tiny electrodes throughout the brain to record its activity and identify where seizures originate.
The researchers identified a brain region -- the internal capsule -- that improved patients’ mental function when stimulated with small amounts of electrical energy. That part of the brain is responsible for cognitive control -- the process of shifting from one thought pattern or behavior to another, which is impaired in most mental illnesses.
The team developed algorithms, so that after stimulation, they could track patients’ cognitive control abilities, both from their actions and directly from their brain activity. The controller method provided boosts of stimulation whenever the patients were doing worse on a laboratory test of cognitive control.