05/17/2013

Brain stimulation boosts math skills

NEWS

Some people feel they’ll never develop math skills, but new research from Oxford University should give them new hope. Scientists found that applying high-frequency electrical noise to the brain can actually boost math skills for a period of up to six months.  The procedure would be non-invasive and painless for the patient, and could have a "real, applied impact," according to experts.

In order to test this form of brain stimulation, researchers recruited 51 Oxford students, who were then split into two groups. One received the transcranial random noise stimulation.  The stimulation was applied to targeted areas of the brain by placing electrodes on the scalp.  Both groups were asked to perform two arithmetic tasks over a five-day period, which involved calculation and committing items to memory, such as multiplication tables.  The results showed that the stimulation group experienced improvements in cognitive and brain functions, and that performance on both the calculation and rote learning tasks improved. 

The researchers learned that the brain stimulation increases the efficiency in which the targeted areas of the brain use their oxygen and nutrient supplies.  The scientists hope that this discovery could be applied in a variety of ways, including for those with neurodegenerative illness, stroke or learning disabilities.

NEXT: What is mindfulness meditation? (infographic)