A machine which stimulates your brain with tiny electric shocks can improve memory, problem-solving and mathematical abilities, psychologists have found.
But Oxford University researchers have warned that the machine could spell trouble if it gets into the wrong hands or is used incorrectly, especially when it comes to children whose brains are still developing.
While the brain-stimulation technique has been previously used to treat cognitive impairment, new research shows it can also boost mental abilities among healthy adults.
Dr Roi Cohen Kadosh, a neuroscientist, uses a high-tech system called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to stimulate precise regions of the brain with a tiny buzz of electric current.
When he stimulates the parietal lobes, which are responsible for our skills in reading, writing and numeracy, he can boost mathematical skills.
The electric current triggers the area to produce chemicals that cause brain cells to develop or change. This process — ‘neural plasticity’ — is essential to learning (our brains change structure when we take on new information).
When Dr Cohen Kadosh’s subjects had their parietal lobes stimulated for 30 minutes every day for a week, they were able to pick up maths skills through conventional lessons far more quickly and effectively than they could before.
‘It’s completely safe. The electric current is one thousand times lower than anything that could cause damage,’ he says.
Tests have shown that the subjects’ maths abilities remain boosted six months after the treatment. …
It heralds a high-tech world of brain medicine where electronics will be used to repair deep faults, such as depression and Parkinson’s, modify problem personalities and boost everyone’s ability to learn, remember and think creatively.