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Understanding Electric Brain Stimulation

Study the clinical application of electric brain stimulation and ‘event-related potentials’ in this free online course.

Publisher: NPTEL
Electric brain stimulation can alleviate depression and Parkinson's Disease symptoms and has even been proven to increase brain function. Furthermore, the brain’s ‘event-related potentials’ are used to identify and classify perceptual, memory and linguistic operations and can help diagnose disabilities or disorders. Learn how this exciting technology can help people and enhance our understanding of thought itself with this free online course.
Understanding Electric Brain Stimulation
  • Duration

    5-6 Hours
  • Students

  • Accreditation






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Neurophysiology is the study of the human brain and, while there is still much to be discovered, scientists have come a long way in understanding the link between brain dysfunction and mental or physical disabilities. For example, electrical brain stimulation is used in research and clinical neurobiology to stimulate neural networks or specific regions in the brain using an electric current. If used properly, it can be used to dissect behavioural and neuro-physiological mechanisms underlying psychological processes. Experimental tests suggest that we might be able to use such technology to cure dementia, schizophrenia or Alzheimer's disease. We may even be able to use electric brain therapy to boost your mental performance and intelligence quotient (IQ). ‘Event-related potentials’ (ERPs) are also essential because they can help us to monitor cognitive function in brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease or strokes. We can also use them to track the effects of therapeutic interventions on cognition.

We begin with the clinical application of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which uses a low-intensity constant current applied directly to the head that partially penetrates the skull and enters the brain. We also examine transcranial magnetic stimulation, a technique that induces localized, relatively small amplitude currents in cortical tissue via the principles of electromagnetic induction - a measure employed by some air force pilots to improve focus and mental awareness. We explore these techniques and establish the benefits of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). This procedure is done under anaesthesia and passes a small electric current through the brain. This intentionally triggers a brief seizure that can quickly reverse symptoms of certain mental health conditions, including epilepsy and catatonia. We then take you through ‘event-related potentials’, which arise when brain activity is monitored and recorded after a visual or auditory stimulus.

Newborn babies are tested to establish whether they can hear or not and medical experts test the response of the cortical circuits in the auditory pathways of the brain. This is called an ‘auditory evoked potential’ and is one of many auditory, visual and somatosensory-evoked potentials that medical professionals and researchers can use to diagnose infections, disorders or mental dysfunctions. We explain different event-related and evoked potentials and demonstrate how they are performed. We present an experiment video featuring a young child being tested while his brain activity is recorded. The course takes you through the manufacturing of silicon wafers, which are used in producing microchips, sensors and electrodes for neuro-instrumentation. This course is challenging and technical but anyone studying neuroscience or related fields will find it exciting and rewarding. The human brain represents a new frontier of scientific exploration as we learn more about what makes us who we are.

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