Scientists boost perception using rhythmic transcranial magnetic stimulation

Feb 14, 2011

Researchers at the University of Glasgow and University College London (UCL) have, for the first time, enhanced visual perception through rhythmic transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) of the brain.

The team led by Dr. Gregor Thut in the Center for Neuroimaging at the Institute of Psychology & Neurosciences at Glasgow together with colleagues at UCL have shown that rTMS boosts the perception of specific visual stimuli among competing information, when applied at specific frequencies.

All brain processes, including vision, hearing and memory, produce electrical signals – or brainwaves – with specific frequencies.

rTMS involves generating weak electrical currents across the head which can be used to study brain function and connections by generating activity in specific areas.

Previous research using (MEG) was consulted to identify the frequency of electrical signals used in which allowed the scientists to generate rTMS patterns of the same frequency to boost the natural function.

Dr. Vincenzo Romei of the Wellcome Trust Center for at UCL and first author of the publication said: “Visual scenes are often crowded with events, but only some of these competing events can be perceived, prioritised for instance through expectations.

“Imagine entering into a crowd of people at a party, while looking for a friend. You will most likely not notice every single person, but will recognize your friend. How the brain exactly selects such information is still unknown.

“We have shown that rTMS could provide a powerful new tool for frequency-specific interventions in perception and brain function.”

The research involved asking 12 participants to look at a computer screen where a large letter would be displayed – an H, S or D. The large letter itself was made up of smaller letters – again H, S or D. These letters were hence made up of competing information at the local versus global level.

Participants were timed as they were asked to identify a target letter – either the larger letter at the global level, or the constituent letters at the local level – while simultaneously undergoing rTMS.

The results showed that giving bursts of rTMS at a beta-frequency (20 Hertz) to the right parietal lobe of the – an area known for its implication in visual selection –enhanced local visual processing resulting in better identification of the target letter, while stimulation at theta-frequency (5 Hertz) enhanced global visual processing.

Dr. Thut said: “We enhance perception using rTMS at biologically relevant frequencies. By showing that perception is shaped through frequency-specific intervention, we are getting closer to understand what is driving our ”.

“Frequency-specific interventions have numerous potential applications such as improving memory and sleep.”

Explore further: Newly discovered types of neurons in the animals' brain help to compensate for self-motion

More information: The research is published in the latest edition of Current Biology.

Provided by University of Glasgow

4.7 /5 (6 votes)

Related Stories

Looming sounds boost visual perception

Oct 16, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Whether it’s the sound of a speeding car approaching from out of the blue, or the faint echo of footsteps following you along a dark street, such looming sounds not only make our ears prick ...

Perceptual training improves vision of the elderly

Nov 22, 2010

Elderly adults can improve their vision with perceptual training, according to a study from the University of California, Riverside and Boston University that has implications for the health and mobility of senior citizens.

Brain's 'radio stations' have much to tell scientists

Feb 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Like listeners adjusting a high-tech radio, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have tuned in to precise frequencies of brain activity to unleash new insights ...

Expectations speed up conscious perception

Feb 02, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The human brain works incredibly fast. However, visual impressions are so complex that their processing takes several hundred milliseconds before they enter our consciousness.

Recommended for you

Researchers track down cause of eye mobility disorder

14 hours ago

Imagine you cannot move your eyes up, and you cannot lift your upper eyelid. You walk through life with your head tilted upward so that your eyes look straight when they are rolled down in the eye socket. ...

How kids' brain structures grow as memory develops

15 hours ago

Our ability to store memories improves during childhood, associated with structural changes in the hippocampus and its connections with prefrontal and parietal cortices. New research from UC Davis is exploring ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

NotAsleep
not rated yet Feb 14, 2011
If Neo had this, he would've seen the woman in the red dress for who she really was...

More news stories

Firm targets 3D printing synthetic tissues, organs

(Medical Xpress)—A University of Oxford spin-out, OxSyBio, will develop 3D printing techniques to produce tissue-like synthetic materials for wound healing and drug delivery. In the longer term the company ...

Survival hope for melanoma patients thanks to new vaccine

(Medical Xpress)—University of Adelaide researchers have discovered that a new trial vaccine offers the most promising treatment to date for melanoma that has spread, with increased patient survival rates and improved ability ...

New clinical trial launched for advance lung cancer

Cancer Research UK is partnering with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer – marking a new era of research into personalised medicines ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Robotics goes micro-scale

(Phys.org) —The development of light-driven 'micro-robots' that can autonomously investigate and manipulate the nano-scale environment in a microscope comes a step closer, thanks to new research from the ...