Thursday, November 4, 2010

Electric current to the brain boosts math ability

Applying a tiny electrical current to the brain could make you better at learning [math], according to Oxford University scientists.

They found that targeting a part of the brain called the parietal lobe improved the ability of volunteers to solve numerical problems.

They hope the discovery could help people with dyscalculia, who may struggle with numbers.

Another expert said effects on other brain functions would need checking.

The findings are reported in the journal Current Biology.

Some studies have suggested that up to one in five people have trouble with [math], affecting not just their ability to complete problems but also to manage everyday activities such as telling the time and managing money.

Neuroscientists believe that activity within the parietal lobe plays a crucial role in this ability, or the lack of it.

When magnetic fields were used in earlier research to disrupt electrical activity in this part of the brain, previously numerate volunteers temporarily developed discalculia, finding it much harder to solve [math]  problems....

The latest research goes a step further, using a one milliamp current to stimulate the parietal lobe of a small number of students.

The current could not be felt, and had no measurable effect on other brain functions.

... Dr Christopher Chambers, from the School of Psychology at Cardiff University, said that the results were "intriguing", and offered the prospect not just of improving numerical skills, but having an impact on a wider range of conditions.

He said: "The ability to tweak activity in parts of the brain, turning it slightly 'up' or 'down' at will, opens the door to treating a range of psychiatric and neurological problems, like compulsive gambling or visual impairments following stroke."

via BBC News - Electric current to the brain 'boosts maths ability'.

I have never heard the word "maths" as used in this article. It sounds so absurdly and laughably wrong (I thought it was a joke at first) that I had to change it here to "math" to maintain my sanity.


Ann said...

"... help people with dyscalculia, who may struggle with numbers....."

"... discalculia, finding it much harder to solve [math] problems ..."

"dyscalculia"? Or is it "discalculia"? Or, are we talking about two different things?

"Dys-" (Gk.) means, bad, ill, abnormal, impaired ... .

And, "dis-" (Lat.) means, negation, apart, removed ... .

Maybe this is a case of dysgraphia (or is that disgraphia?)

"White matter (dis)connections and gray matter (dys)functions
in visual neglect: ..." is the title of an article by Fabrizio Doricchi et al., in Cortex (2008)

But, then "disequilibrium" is used sometimes in place of "dysequilibrium."

Cheng said...

You've never heard the term "maths"? Strange, cos the Brits all have a little snigger when they hear "math". Just sounds, as you say, wrong. Like the speaker has a lisp and is trying to say mass.

We won't let that destroy Anglo-American relations though. :)

I like the fact that this is about electricity being applied to the brain and was reported in Current Biology. Har har.