Electrical brain zap 'boosts maths ability'

A tiny electric current applied to the back of the head can significantly improve a person’s mathematical skills for up to six months, a study has found.

The effect can even be reversed by changing the flow of the current to the opposite side of the head, which results in a person becoming significantly worse at handling numbers, scientists said.

Being able to enhance or impair a person’s numerical skills with small electrical currents could lead to new ways of helping the estimated one in five people with various degrees of dyscalculia, or “number blindness”, said Roi Cohen Kadosh of Oxford University.

“I am certainly not advising people to go around giving themselves electric shocks, but we are extremely excited by the potential of our findings,” Dr Cohen Kadosh said.

“We’ve shown before that we can temporarily induce dyscalculia, and now it seems we might also be able to make someone better at maths. Electrical stimulation will most likely not turn you into Albert Einstein, but if we’re successful, it might be able to help some people to cope bettere with maths,” he said.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, involved numeracy tests on 15 young adults who were divided into three groups while subjected to small electric currents of about 1 milliamp applied to the surface of the skull above the two parietal lobes on each side of the back of the head.

One group had the positive electrode of the transcranial stimulation equipment, which delivers the current, applied to the right parietal lobe, while a second group had it applied to the left parietal lobe. The third group had a “sham” stimulation to act as a control for the experiment.

Each volunteer was trained for a period of six days in tests involving the handling of artificial numbers – symbols they had never seen before which they were told represented numbers – while they were subjected to the non-invasive, transcranial stimulation.

The scientists found that the volunteers whose right pariental lobes were stimulated by the positive electrode delivering the electric current got significantly better in handling numbers compared to either the control group or the group whose left parietal lobes were stimulated.

“Our findings are important because they establish [electrical stimulation] as a tool for intervention in cases of atypical numerical development or loss of numerical abilities due to stroke or degenerative illnesses,” the scientists say in their scientific report.

“To date, no pharmacological interventions have been found that could target numerical cognition directly without holding substantial side effects for other domains, such as attention. Therefore, the specificity of the current findings make the use of [electrical stimulation] attractive in the field of rehabilitation of developmental and acquired disorders in numerical cognition,” they say.

Christopher Chambers, a psycholoists from the University of Cardiff, said the findings were really intriguing and add to the growing body of research showing that certain types of brain stimulation, in certain contexts, can enhance brain function.

“One obvious implication for these findings lies in the development of methods for enhancing numerical skills in the general population, even for those who are not clinically impaired. Brain stimulation methods... also have a lot of potential applications in promoting recovery following brain injury or developmental disorders,” Dr Chambers said.

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed