By Nicky Phillips
Before playing a guitar, musicians tune the strings to particular frequencies to get the pitch they want. Starting this week, a team of neuroscientists in Australia will apply a similar tuning process to human brains as part of a study to recalibrate abnormal neural patterns to a healthy state.
The group, at Monash University in Melbourne, is conducting one of the first trials to use electrodes on people’s scalps, both to monitor their brain activity and to provide customized electrical stimulation. By tuning groups of neurons to specific frequencies, the team will attempt to alleviate people’s depression and other mood disorders. The Monash team is one of several around the world experimenting with such ‘closed loop’ systems — where stimulation is directed by the patient’s brain activity, which is in turn altered by the stimulation.
“They’re doing something right at the cutting edge,” says Charlotte Stagg, a neurophysiologist at the University of Oxford, UK. “It’ll be pretty cool if they can get it to work.”
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