A powerful new study has found that the brain of humans can be transformed by a combination of drugs and diet.
It has been described as the first study to show how brain-boosting drugs like lithium and serotonin can transform a normal human brain to one that can be used to create a cognitive superpower.
Lead researcher Dr Matthew Dyson said the research would allow scientists to develop new treatments for dementia, stroke and other illnesses.
“These new findings will have a profound impact on the field of cognitive neuroscience and will help in understanding the brain’s innate abilities,” he said.
The team used MRI scans to look at the brains activity while subjects were given an array of drugs.
After an hour of sleep deprivation, the brains electrical activity increased by more than 1,000 per cent, as if the brain was being “woken up”.
“The results showed a direct relationship between the amount of time the brain spent awake and the amount the brain received a dose of a drug,” Dr Dyson told ABC News.
“This is a very simple but powerful mechanism of change that has been previously unknown in humans.”
The team, led by Dr Denny, used two different drugs, lithium and serotonergic compounds.
The drugs had been developed by scientists in the US, and they were found to boost the brain activity of people with Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.
But the researchers say their findings could be applicable to other diseases as well.
“We are seeing an enormous increase in Alzheimer’s patients, but the underlying causes are not known,” Dr Wylie said.
“Our results are also being used to study other brain diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.”
Dr Wylies research team also found the drugs affected the brain circuits that control memory.
The brain is very powerful at storing information, but a drug that makes the brain switch off and then re-activate it could give a boost to a memory.
“If you’re a patient with Alzheimer, it might make you forget that you have Alzheimer’s,” Dr Tylie Wylier said.
“And if you’re Parkinson’s, it could make you remember the things that are important to you.”
Dr Dyson says this research could help doctors develop new drugs to treat dementia, as well as the condition of people who suffer from stroke and Huntington.
“It’s an exciting development,” he told ABC Radio National.
“The discovery of a brain drug that increases brain activity is important for many brain diseases.”
Dr Tylrie Wyliers Alzheimer’s research group is led by neuroscientist Dr Wyly.