From speeding up monotonous processes to helping us navigate the world, computer technology has become a necessary tool in modern life.

Now, according to a recent set of articles published by the Queensland Brain Institute, computers are slowly starting to help us improve our own brains performance. From learning new things to applying ourselves, a key step toward improving the brains performance is to study and understand it’s activity.

Using a headpiece containing electrodes – feeding data to a computer – the brains electrical signals can be recorded using EEG (or electroencephalography). Unlike the use of implanted devices – which give highly accurate readings of the brain by tracking individual cells – this external method of measurement can only pick up signals that travel through the scalp. The result is more generalised information. Nevertheless, according to the QBI, this information is still very useful for learning more about the brain of an individual.

One of the main branches of research using EEG is learning. Headed by QBI professor Jason Mattingley, a group of researchers have developed a way to visualise the brains attention signals once input into a computer. This data can then be used to gauge a subjects focus and level of attention. According to the team, the technology is refined enough to be applied in certain settings such as classrooms.

This same method of measuring brain activity is also being put to use in other areas. QBI researcher Dr David Painter – a developer of the technology – says that the ability to track brain activity could be harnessed by game developers. The advantages of such a use of technology is obvious – players can use their brain to control the game.

People with physical impairments could also benefit form this. When the brain attempt something such as raising an arm, the EEG can give real time feedback to the subject if raising an arm is not actually possible for them. This feedback could then generate a signal sent to the arm, stimulating the arms muscles and causing it to move.

Another proposed use is memory improvement. By tracking brain activity during particular memory-related tasks, researchers were able to record the subjects memory of activity. The task was then done as the brain was electrically stimulated in the same pattern as had been recorded. By electrically stimulating the brain, subjects gave 35% more accurate results.

For more details on these topics, check out the QBI’s latest online magazine The Brain: Intelligent Machines