Math Skills Improved By Electric Shocks To Brain, Study Suggests

If you are one of the 20% of healthy adults who struggle with basic arithmetic, simple tasks like splitting the dinner bill can be excruciating. Now, a new study suggests that a gentle, painless electrical current applied to the brain can boost math performance for up to 6 months. Researchers don’t fully understand how it works, however, and there could be side effects.

The idea of using electrical current to alter brain activity is nothing new — electroshock therapy, which induces seizures for therapeutic effect, is probably the best known and most dramatic example. In recent years, however, a slew of studies has shown that much milder electrical stimulation applied to targeted regions of the brain can dramatically accelerate learning in a wide range of tasks, from marksmanship to speech rehabilitation after stroke.

Can Shocking Your Brain Make You Smarter?

Mathematical abilities are improved when the current is applied to the brain

British scientists from Oxford University under the leadership of Roy Cohen Kadosh argue that the impact on the brain by impulses of electric current can improve the mathematical abilities of man, and the effect persists even after six months.

Such a conclusion was made following the results of the experiment with a group of volunteers. On the frontal part of their brain, which, in particular, responds to the thinking ability, placed electrodes, and through them a very weak electro-potential was supplied. After five sessions of forty minutes duration, the subjects began solving arithmetic problems and remembering the numerical information twice as fast.

What is the essence of the effect? As it turned out, it’s all about oxygen. It began to act more precisely in those parts of the brain that were “choked” by electrical impulses. As a consequence, the activity of the “thinking” neurons has sharply increased. But the main thing that scientists emphasize is that the amazing effect persists for a long time. In any case, this was confirmed by a check made six months after the experiment.

Although many scientists have accepted these results of Cohen Kadosh’s group with skepticism, he is sure that his discovery has a great future. “About 5-7 percent of the world’s population suffers from an inability to learn arithmetic, and 20 percent of schoolchildren do not work well with numbers, and they can all be helped,” Kadosh said. He already sees classes of the future, where each desk is equipped with special helmets, helping students to “split” mathematical puzzles. This cheap and non-invasive procedure, in his opinion, can be used in the rehabilitation of patients who survived a stroke.

About 30 years ago, academician Natalya Bekhtereva conducted similar experiments. For example, an ordinary person is able to remember 7 objects lying on a table. And when the current is applied to the brain, he has already memorized 11-12. And similar works, where it is shown how with the help of electrostimulation it is possible to improve mental abilities, and to have a beneficial effect on the nervous system, and to cause a lot of interesting effects, a lot has been done in the world. In this there is nothing new and complicated. Electrostimulation treats some brain diseases. But I stress – they are treating, trying to get the patients back to normal, and do not apply this method to people who are healthy.

After all, in fact — this is a real dope. It must be understood that the brain is a very precisely balanced, complex system. By acting on the current, you interfere with this stability and violate it. And just because nothing happens, free cheese only in a mousetrap. And the payback is obvious – this is an imbalance. And if in the treatment of electrostimulation, we try to return the patient to a normal level, to a balance, then, applying it to a healthy person, we force him to pass this level. But this can not be done for the same reason that doping is prohibited.