Tiny shocks help schizophrenics do better

Sydney: Brain function in schizophrenia improves after being subjected to very mild, painless electrical currents through electrodes on the scalp.

In a recent study using a technique called transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS), scientists from Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) have shown that brain function in schizophrenics can improve after applying the stimulation for just 20 minutes.

"There are very few new treatment options for people with schizophrenia, so finding a different treatment that is promising and also has little in the way of side effects is very exciting," says lead researcher Tom Weickert, the journal Schizophrenia Research reports.

tDCS technique has previously been shown to improve brain function in healthy people, as well as people with depression, according to a Neuroscience Research statement.

One of the characteristics of schizophrenia is reduced brain activity in the pre-frontal cortex, an area at the front of the brain used for thinking, motivation and learning.

During the application, participants were asked to complete a computer task designed to measure improvements in a type of learning called `implicit learning`, in this case learning to predict the weather (rain or shine) using tarot cards.

The team found that tDCS improved learning abilities in those people who already showed some potential to learn during an initial testing session without brain stimulation.


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