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Shocking Study Claims Brain Zaps Improve Math Skills

November 11, 2010 

According to a recent article in Science Now, a team of researchers has shown that administering a small electrical charge to the brain may enhance a person's ability to process numbers.

Cognitive neuroscientist Roi Cohen Kadosh and a team of researchers at the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience recruited 15 university students and trained them to learn the value of nine made-up symbols.

The researchers used transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS), a technique wherein electrodes are attached to the subjects' scalps and a weak electrical current is applied.

The volunteers were separated into three groups for daily treatments over a six-day period. Group one received a positive current for 20 minutes, group two received a negative current for 20 minutes, and group three received a positive current for 30 seconds. After the treatment, each participant was given a numerical Stroop task, which Science Now describes as "in the classic version of the test, volunteers are shown, say, the word "blue" written in red ink and asked to state the color of the ink."

According to Current Biology, the researchers found that volunteers who received 20 minutes of positive electrical current performed the best on the test and were able to retain the effects of the treatment six months later.

While the results may have implications in restoring numerical skills in people suffering from degenerative diseases or stroke and to improve the math abilities of the general population, Silke Göbel, a psychologist at the University of York, said, "It is not clear whether this effect is really specific to number learning or would generalize to any new stimuli, ... [but] this is obviously an important question for future studies." 

Source: Science Now (November 4, 2010)

Start Date: 
Thursday, November 11, 2010