Neuroenhancement of high-level cognition: Evidence for homeostatic constraints of non-invasive brain stimulation
Krause B., Dresler M., Looi CY., Sarkar A., COHEN KADOSH ROI.
Neuroenhancement aims to improve cognitive performance in typically and atypically functioning populations. However, it is currently debated whether it is also effective in exceptionally high-functioning individuals. Present theories suggest that homeostatic set points for learning and cortical plasticity limit the beneficial effects of neuroenhancement. To examine this possibility, we used transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS) to non-invasively stimulate bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortices (DLPFC) of the world champion in mental calculation, G.M. TRNS did not change G.M.’s calculation performance compared to sham on an exceptionally complex arithmetic task. However, a sample of mathematicians who were not prodigies (N=6) showed reduced accuracy on a complex multiplication task in response to tRNS, relative to sham. Our findings suggest that there may be an upper limit for cognitive enhancement and that further attempts to enhance performance using tRNS (at least with the current parameters) may impair optimal functioning. The discussion of potential negative effects of brain stimulation for cognitive enhancement is critical, as it may lead to unintended impairments in different subgroups of the population.