Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Shock Your Brain and Become a Math Whiz!
In a study conducted at the University of Oxford a team of neurologists were able to improve an individual's math abilities. The process sounds scary, but apparently all it takes is fifteen minutes of electric currents passed through the brain. The process is said to be barely noticeable and the improved brain function can last up to six months.
The process is known as transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS), the scientists sent the current through the subjects brain area where numbers are processed, the parietal lobe.
The patients were taught symbols to represent specific numbers, and while the TDCS was passing through their brains they were tasked with organizing the numbers. The ones who had the TDCS showed better results than those in a control group. Even when they were re-tested six months later, they still showed improved function. According to the scientists, “the current helps the affected nerves to fire more quickly, making it easier to learn information.” In the study, the team of scientists found that reversing the electrode polarity led to poorer results. The scientists stimulated the brain for approximately twenty minutes a day for six days.Stimulation was applied for about twenty minutes a day for six days.
The scientists plan on continuing the study with patients who exhibit lower-than-average math and number processing skills. It may be some time until the TDCS could become common place but if it became possible to be used in a wide-spread setting, the changes it could make with individuals with math-related learning disabilities - or just those of us who don’t love math could be significant.
We shouldn't all just get ready to go zapping our brains - "I am certainly not advising people to go around giving themselves electric shocks," said Roi Cohen Kadosh, one of the study's co-authors, "But we are extremely excited by the potential of our findings."
This study opens up an interesting question - will we soon be able to allow science to improve our daily lives by not just helping us solve certain problems - but by making our brains stronger and more capable themselves? We also must question the long-term consequences, we know that the results last six months but not necessarily longer.
More Information and Sources:
Popular Science - Improve Your Math Skills With an Electric Jolt to Your Brain
Discovery News - Zapping the Brain Improves Math Skills