An article (abstract) published in Current Biology shows how visual perception can be selectively boosted in two different ways:
In the study, letters (H,S, and D) made up of smaller letters were displayed on computer monitors. Researchers asked participants to detect the presence of the letter "H" on either the global or local level. Participants who received transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) during the task showed significant improvements in detection times, compared to sham stimulation.
What's particularly interesting is this: the TMS frequency determined the type of perceptive boost. At 5 Hz, a frequency associated with theta brainwaves, participants were quicker to identify the global presence of the letter "H" when it was made of the letters "S" or "D". 20 Hz TMS bursts, similar in frequency to beta waves, improved performance in the more detail-oriented task of picking out the individual letters forming the whole.
Beyond the basic science aspect, this is a fascinating example of using technology to "change mental gears", as 'twere. I've often found that, after fiddling around with one or another detail of a project, it's difficult to return to a more integrative, global viewpoint. Programmers, artists, and engineers would all benefit from being able to switch modes back and forth at will.
I've already blogged about brain enhancement via transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). TMS is even less invasive than tDCS, although the equipment is bulkier and more expensive. I suspect tDCS will achieve mass commercialization faster than TMS for these reasons, although in the long term both may be used in tandem.