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Electric Math

May 17, 2013

Electrical stimulation to the brain can improve math performance.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (Host):

Charging up math skills. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Stimulating a part of the brain involved in math reasoning with a particular electrical current can jumpstart math learning, according to new research published in the journal Current Biology. University of Oxford experimental psychologist Roi Cohen Kadosh led the study.

ROI COHEN KADOSH (University of Oxford):

The technique involves two electrodes and we put them on the area that we want to stimulate, and we deliver a very low current of electricity.

HIRSHON:

Volunteers who completed daily, 20-minute math sessions for five days while receiving the stimulation, out-performed a matched group that did the math without the electrical stimulation. Six months later, they had retained their gains, and even showed improvements visible in brain scans. While the work is basic research, Cohen Kadosh says that down the road, he could imagine the technique going beyond mathematics into other domains, and potentially helping people with learning disabilities. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society. 

Red and blue electrodes and near infrared spectroscopy to record haemodynamic changes. (Roi Cohen Kadosh)