Proof Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Improves Memory

Transcranial magnetic stimulation and memory

Improve your memory with TMS. Step one – Get a team of neuroscientists to map you brain with fMRI. Step two – Buy and calibrate a multithousand dollar TMS device. Step three – Memory.

If you read the previous blog post on TDCS, then you will quickly understand the basics of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).  A group led by Joel Voss at Northwestern just published a small study (16 people) in the Journal Science showing that after intensive fMRI brain mapping and five 20-minute TMS sessions, participants improved memory performance by 30%.  This is quite amazing and in line with other studies.  The key to this study is that the researchers first mapped the brain determining which regions of the brain synched closely with hippocampal neural networks.  While a 30% improvement in memory is amazing, the work and cost involved make this technique unsuitable for the average person.  However, there are easier ways to improve memory!

A couple of years ago, I published a slightly larger study (62 Stanford students) in the Journal of Appetite showing that chewing Think Gum improved memory by over 25%.  The great thing about Think Gum is that it requires no brain mapping, no fMRI, no team of neuroscientists and no TMS device.  All you need is $2.49 and a mouth.

7 Back to School Tips for a Great School Year

7 tricks for Academic Success

7 tricks for Academic Success – Get Organized, Don’t Fall Behind, Go to Class, Set a Schedule, Don’t Stress, Exercise and Sleep, Chewing Think Gum.

1.  Get Organized - Use a calendar to organize assignments, test dates and projects.  Do this as soon as you get a syllabus.  You might use a daily planner or even iCal on your phone.  Start major projects way ahead of time, this will give you a buffer and time to put some real thought into them.

2.  Don’t Fall Behind - It is much more difficult to catch up in a subject than it is to stay up to date.  Especially in classes like science and math one lesson will teach concepts critical to the next lesson.  If you don’t stay up to date, you might at well not attend.  I’ve found it helpful to spend 5-10 minutes reviewing the syllabus before class and the last lesson to make sure I can review any key concepts.

3.  Go to Class - This is very straightforward, but in the days of webcast classes it is easy to watch from home or get the notes from a friend.  Sit close enough that you would feel bad if you fell asleep in front of your teacher and take notes.  Taking notes really does help the concepts sink in.

4.  Set a Schedule -  It is very helpful to set a time for work and a time for fun.  I always went to the library and worked until 6pm or until my work was done.  That way I could have fun in the evening.  There are many methods that can work, but in general take a 5-minute break every half-hour to stretch your legs, get a snack or chat with a friend. 

5.  Don’t Stress – Make sure to find time for something you enjoy every day.  Know that there will always be that kid who studies 24-7.  You don’t want to be that kid.  You won’t be happy and in all likelihood you won’t preform any better by studying 3-times more.  Get your work done on time, study until you feel good and then have some fun.

6.  Exercise and Sleep – Find time for both exercise and a full night of sleep.  Students often complain that there isn’t even enough time for homework.  This is just not true.  Be diligent.  A 20-minute run will give you energy and clear your mind allowing you to actually focus on what matters.  Same goes for sleeping.  Avoid late night cramming at all costs.  Sleeping improves memory and attention.

7.  Chew Think Gum – Think Gum is a lightly caffeinated gum that has been shown to help improve memory and concentration.  Don’t expect to skip numbers 1-6 and do well in school.  But chewing Think Gum can help give you the boost you need to out compete your peers.  It will help you make better use of your precious time.  Use the code Back2School to save 25% off your online orders.

Good luck this year!

TDCS: Amazing Brain-Boosting Technology or Just the Latest Fad?

Can TDCS Improve Memory?

Does TDCS Really Work?

I’ve been hearing whispers about TDCS or Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation and related TMS Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for a while now, but only recently decided to do some digging.  The premise is that a small amount of electrical or magnetic stimulation can enhance or reduce  the ability of neurons to fire (depending on the polarity).  The premise seems plausible as neurons fire in response to tiny changes in the potential across neuronal membranes.  There is no shortage of press on the subject.  Some good ones include this article in Nature and another one in Wired.  Amazingly, peer-reviewed papers back up the fact that TDCS can have a biological effect on people.    A fantastic and highly entertaining introduction to TDCS can be heard on the podcast RadioLab.

The technology is almost stupidly simple and this might be its greatest strength and weakness.  Basically a TDCS device consists of a 9-volt battery, a variable resistor and some electrodes.  People connect the electrodes to various parts of the scalp, face or body and and get a small zap (~1m amp) for about 20 minutes.  Users know the machine is on due to a tingling sensation and sometimes a metallic taste in their mouths.  Supposedly, depending on the placement of the electrodes different neuronal clusters can be stimulated or repressed.  What is really interesting is that people feel a bit different even after stopping TDCS and this might be due to a increase in certain neuronal receptors (like the same ones that respond to drugs like PCP and ketamine).  Anecdotal evidence suggests that TDCS is relatively safe with skin irritation and seeing a flash of light depending on where the electrode is placed, being reported, but no long-terms studies have been done.

Because the technology is so accessible almost anyone can build or buy a machine.  However this leads to many different machines, protocols voltages, electrode types and placements.  This means it is quite difficult for one person to compare data with another.

There are claims that the technology can help people with chronic pain, depression and even improve memory, but more on that later.  TDCS it is far from a proven technology.  Proving that something like this works in conditions that are highly susceptible to the placebo effect can be challenging, but results are promising and I know of at least 1 start-up attempting clinical trials with this kind of technology.

It will be amazing if this technology is proven to work as there is some evidence that it can improve reaction speed, reading ability and even creativity.  I may try to build a simple machine and will share my results on the blog if I do.  Of course for those people who are hesitant to use an unproven technology especially when it includes electrically altering your brain there is always Think Gum.  As you know, a peer-reviewed study demonstrated that Think Gum improved memory by over 25%.  We’ll have to see how TDCS stacks up.

Sleep Your Way to Good Grades

This is not effective studying

This is not effective studying

A discussion paper from a group in Belgium looked at 621 first-year university students and showed that students who slept more also got better grades.  The results were dramatic with the best sleepers scoring nearly 9% better than the worst sleepers.  To be fair, it is unclear whether being well-rested is leading to better marks or if better students simply sleep more and pull all-nighters less frequently.  Both are likely true.  Being well-rested let’s you focus at the task at hand.  It is also true that well-prepared students feel like they can sleep more without having to stay up late cramming for exams.

I think everyone can agree that sleep is critical to being sharp.  Instead of staying up all night cramming and going straight into a test, let me recommend the following;   Spend some of that time being an effective studier by chewing a piece of Think Gum while you study.  Go to sleep at a reasonable time and wake up early and get that last bit of studying in.  Don’t forget to take a couple of minutes to eat something for breakfast and then go into your exam rested and prepared.  Chewing a piece of Think Gum during your exam will help with recall of all the facts and figures you just crammed in.

ADHD Expert Loves Think Gum

Think Gum recommended by ADHD expert

Think Gum recommended by ADHD expert

Leslie Josel, ADHD expert, mother and organization guru loves Think Gum.  I got a chance to demo Think Gum for Leslie at a trade show and she was impressed.  As she wrote in her popular blog ” Can chewing gum really boost brain-power, concentration, and memory? Think Gum® sure can! Made with proven brain-boosting  herbs and herbal extracts, potent antioxidants, and natural occurring  caffeine, Think Gum has been proven to enhance mental performance  and it has the research to prove it.  A study conducted published in the Journal of Appetite demonstrates that Think Gum can be used to improve aspects of memory!   As you can expect, college and high school students LOVE this stuff.  Think Gum® was designed to help students make the most of their  education without using processed chemicals. Plain chewing gum is  already known to help focus and reduce stress, but when combined  with herbal additives shown to improve cognitive function, Think  Gum® truly is an effective study aid. Many students attribute Think  Gum® to their improved performance, alertness, concentration… Time to get chewing.  For more information and purchasing info visit:  www.thinkgum.com

Thanks Leslie!

Think Gum on PCWorld.com

Playing Halo all Night has never been more fun

Playing Halo all Night has never been more fun

Think Gum was featured on PCWorld.com as one of the more interesting things at the recent Neurogaming Conference in SF.  Think Gum is great for gamers who need to stay sharp!

Take Notes by Hand for Better Long-Term Comprehension

This is a photo of a student taking notes by hand.

Put away your laptop and start taking notes!

Think Gum isn’t the only way to boost comprehension in class.  A new study published in the journal Psychological Scienceshows that taking notes by hand is better than taking notes on a laptop for remembering conceptual information over the long term.

A summary from PsycologicalSceince.org is below:

Walk into any university lecture hall and you’re likely to see row upon row of students sitting behind glowing laptop screens. Laptops in class have been controversial, due mostly to the many opportunities for distraction that they provide (online shopping, browsing Reddit, or playing solitaire, just to name a few). But few studies have examined how effective laptops are for the students who diligently take notes.

“Our new findings suggest that even when laptops are used as intended — and not for buying things on Amazon during class — they may still be harming academic performance,” says psychological scientist Pam Mueller of Princeton University, lead author of the study.

Mueller was prompted to investigate the question after her own experience of switching from laptop to pen and paper as a graduate teaching assistant:

“I felt like I’d gotten so much more out of the lecture that day,” says Mueller, who was working with psychology researcher Daniel Oppenheimer at the time. “Danny said that he’d had a related experience in a faculty meeting: He was taking notes on his computer, and looked up and realized that he had no idea what the person was actually talking about.”

Mueller and Oppenheimer, who is now at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, conducted a series of studies to investigate whether their intuitions about laptop and longhand note-taking were true.

In the first study, 65 college students watched one of five TED Talks covering topics that were interesting but not common knowledge. The students, who watched the talks in small groups, were either given laptops (disconnected from Internet) or notebooks, and were told to use whatever strategy they normally used to take notes.

The students then completed three distractor tasks, including a taxing working memory task. A full 30 minutes later, they had to answer factual-recall questions (e.g., “Approximately how many years ago did the Indus civilization exist?”) and conceptual-application questions (e.g., “How do Japan and Sweden differ in their approaches to equality within their societies?”) based on the lecture they had watched.

The results revealed that while the two types of note-takers performed equally well on questions that involved recalling facts, laptop note-takers performed significantly worse on the conceptual questions.

The notes from laptop users contained more words and more verbatim overlap with the lecture, compared to the notes that were written by hand. Overall, students who took more notes performed better, but so did those who had less verbatim overlap, suggesting that the benefit of having more content is canceled out by “mindless transcription.”

“It may be that longhand note takers engage in more processing than laptop note takers, thus selecting more important information to include in their notes, which enables them to study this content more efficiently,” the researchers write.

Surprisingly, the researchers saw similar results even when they explicitly instructed the students to avoid taking verbatim notes, suggesting that the urge to do so when typing is hard to overcome.

The researchers also found that longhand note takers still beat laptop note takers on recall one week later when participants were given a chance to review their notes before taking the recall test. Once again, the amount of verbatim overlap was associated with worse performance on conceptual items.

“I don’t anticipate that we’ll get a mass of people switching back to notebooks,” says Mueller, “but there are several new stylus technologies out there, and those may be the way to go to have an electronic record of one’s notes, while also having the benefit of being forced to process information as it comes in, rather than mindlessly transcribing it.”

“Ultimately, the take-home message is that people should be more aware of how they are choosing to take notes, both in terms of the medium and the strategy,” Mueller concludes.

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