Cognitive enhancement news

29 Mar

Deric Bownds blogs on recent research on trans-cranial direct current stimulation.

Also a paper published late last year in Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience reports evidence that the drug valproate may reopen sensitive learning periods in adults. This is an amazing claim, it is widely believed that there are sensitive periods in development where the brain’s learning capacity is enhanced, such as the language learning ability of young children. In this study, the authors claim that valproate reopened the sensitive period for perfect pitch and allowed adults to acquire this skill. Here is the abstract:

 “Absolute pitch, the ability to identify or produce the pitch of a sound without a reference point, has a critical period, i.e., it can only be acquired early in life. However, research has shown that histone-deacetylase inhibitors (HDAC inhibitors) enable adult mice to establish perceptual preferences that are otherwise impossible to acquire after youth. In humans, we found that adult men who took valproate (VPA) (a HDAC inhibitor) learned to identify pitch significantly better than those taking placebo—evidence that VPA facilitated critical-period learning in the adult human brain. Importantly, this result was not due to a general change in cognitive function, but rather a specific effect on a sensory task associated with a critical-period.”

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2 Responses to “Cognitive enhancement news”

  1. locksleyu March 29, 2014 at 11:10 pm #

    Wow, that’s an amazing finding! I would love to see studies on how this effects people trying to master a foreign language at a later age (30+).

  2. Henny Kupferstein April 12, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    Those with perfect pitch are pitch-oriented, rather than conceptual thinkers. I can tell you what I am hearing, but I couldn’t decipher which key I was playing in unless I stop to think about it. This type of detail-oriented information-processing lends itself to preeminence for fine arts (music) over whole-words (language), often resulting in the phenomenon of perfect pitch (“Absolute Pitch”), and synaesthesia. Autistic people benefit from the neural differences in their auditory perception. I talk about this on my article http://hennyk.com/autism-and-perfect-pitch/, specifically, “For auditory learners, reading comprehension and abstract concepts in mathematics can be completely inaccessible.”

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