Researchers from the department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering at Aalto University, and department of Physiology in the Faculty of Medicine at University of Helsinki collaborated together and succeeded in improving awareness of cognitive abilities by combining various brain research methods such as (TMS) transcranial magnetic stimulation, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and (d.MRI) diffusion MRI. In Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, a magnetic field is used to activate the nerve cells of the brain. Generally, TMS is used in the brain surgery procedures for pinpointing the location of primary motor cortex and also in treating depression.
14 healthy volunteers were chosen as test subjects for the study. Firstly, the volunteers underwent structural MRI and then diffusion MRI, both helped in determining the neural pathways direction. After MRIs neural pathway connections were found out for each individual separately. Last part of the study was the volunteers were asked touch sensations from the fingertip and to evaluate the touch stimulation improvement and how certain they were about their answers. During this, the test subjects were given magnetic pulses to prefrontal cortex areas which have the neural pathway connection to somatosensory cortex that represent the index finger. The capacity to control and monitor their own cognitive process is called metacognition which is very important for people and it is weakened in people who are suffering from neuropsychiatric illnesses.
By understanding the brain functions of these healthy volunteers may help in the development of new methods of treating neuropsychiatric illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and traumatic brain injuries.