New approach in treating mental illness: Closed-loop enhancement and neural decoding of cognitive control in humans

 | Post date: 2021/11/26 | 
In a pilot human study, a brain region has been identified that improved patients' mental function when stimulated with small amounts of electrical energy. This system can read brain activity, 'decode' from that when a patient is having difficulty, and apply a small burst of electrical stimulation to the brain to boost them past that difficulty.
Deficits in cognitive control—that is, in the ability to withhold a default pre-potent response in favour of a more adaptive choice—are common in depression, anxiety, addiction and other mental disorders. Researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital report proof-of-concept evidence that, in participants undergoing intracranial epilepsy monitoring, closed-loop direct stimulation of the internal capsule or striatum, especially the dorsal sites, enhances the participants’ cognitive control during a conflict task. They also show that closed-loop stimulation upon the detection of lapses in cognitive control produced larger behavioural changes than open-loop stimulation, and that task performance for single trials can be directly decoded from the activity of a small number of electrodes via neural features that are compatible with existing closed-loop brain implants. Closed-loop enhancement of cognitive control might remediate underlying cognitive deficits and aid the treatment of severe mental disorders. 
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