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Neurons that fire in sync together function better together. And giving them a little electrical nudge to fall in rhythm with each other could help improve cognitive function.

Interest in the potential of directly stimulating the brain to treat neuropsychiatric conditions and cognitive decline has burgeoned over the years. One approach, called transcranial alternating current brain stimulation, or tACS, involves wearing a cap embedded with electrodes that send weak, oscillating electrical currents to the scalp. Whether it has the capacity to change mental function has been a topic of debate in the field.

To help resolve conflicting evidence on the benefits of this procedure, Boston University cognition and memory researcher Shrey Grover and his colleagues compiled and reviewed data from over 100 studies on tACS and cognitive function. They found that this form of brain stimulation could enhance multiple types of cognition for both healthy people and those vulnerable to changes in mental function.

“Developments in the field of tACS are bringing researchers closer to being able to safely enhance mental function in a noninvasive way that doesn’t require medication,” Grover writes.

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Vivian Lam

Associate Health and Biomedicine Editor

A meta-analysis helps resolve conflicting evidence on the benefits of tACS. Science Photo Library via Getty Images

Rhythmically stimulating the brain with electrical currents could boost cognitive function, according to analysis of over 100 studies

Shrey Grover, Boston University

Transcranial alternating current stimulation, or tACS, is a type of brain stimulation that can change neural activity and improve memory, attention and executive function.

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