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How VR could make you smarter

Virtual reality is fun. But what if it could be more than fun? What if VR could make you smarter?

For more than 70 years, scientists have known about a brain phenomenon called the “theta rhythm.” To oversimplify it, your brain thinks not just in frequencies but in syncopated beats. And the theta is the most prominent rhythm in the brain.

Theta rhythms are active when we’re awake, then increase when we walk. They disappear when we sleep but crop back up when we dream. In more than 70,000 studies and counting, theta rhythms have been shown to be critical in cognition, learning, and memory, and we see them go awry in maladies like Alzheimer’s disease, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), anxiety, and epilepsy.

For years, drugs have attempted to boost theta rhythms by attaching themselves to neurons in our brain, with varied success. But now, for the first time, scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, have found a way to increase theta rhythms in mice simply by putting them inside a virtual reality simulation. Their findings were published in Nature Neuroscience.

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