The human brain is capable of integrating intricate and diverse inputs from multiple sensory systems simultaneously in order to rapidly comprehend and assess the information for planning and execution of complex actions. These and other cognitive functions are performed by the vastly interconnected neural networks formed by the roughly 100 billion neurons of the brain. The precise patterns of connectivity among neurons within these networks determines their function, and through experience, these connectivity patterns change over time to enable acquisition of new skills. Indeed, one of the most impressive aspects of brain function is the ability to learn new cognitive skills, such as the ability to understand and speak a foreign language. During learning, connections between neurons change through a process known as synaptic plasticity, which plays a pivotal role in learning, While traditional learning brings about changes in neural networks through experience, synaptic plasticity can also be enhanced by activating neuromodulatory regions in the brain via peripheral neurostimulation. This program seeks to use peripheral neurostimulation to facilitate the release of neurotransmitters associated with components of learning, such as acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. By combining peripheral neurostimulation with conventional training practices, we can leverage endogenous neuronal circuitry to enhance learning by accelerating the tuning of neural networks responsible for cognitive functions.
Recent success with this approach has been demonstrated in clinical rehabilitation studies, utilizing peripheral neurostimulation delivered through implanted electrodes. However, while invasive approaches may be justified for treating people with medical conditions, noninvasive methods are preferred for use in healthy individuals
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