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    Electrical Stimulation Can Boost Math Ability For 6 Months, Says Study
    By News Staff | November 4th 2010 12:10 AM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Researchers say that by applying electrical current to the brain they can enhance mathematical performance for up to 6 months - and there is no impact on other cognitive functions.

    Aside from being a new way for kids to cheat on their SATs, the work may lead to treatments for the percentage of the population with moderate to severe numerical disabilities like dyscalculia ('math dyslexia') and for those who lose their skill with numbers as a result of stroke or degenerative disease.

    The researchers used a method of brain stimulation known as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).   TDCS is a noninvasive technique in which a weak current is applied to the brain constantly over time to enhance or reduce the activity of neurons and it has gotten attention in the last decade for its potential to improve various functions in people with neurological deficits, like those who have suffered a stroke. 

    In the new study, the researchers applied tDCS specifically to the parietal lobe, a portion of the brain that is crucial for numerical understanding. The study participants had normal mathematical abilities but were asked to learn a series of artificial numbers—symbols that they had never seen before that they were told represented numbers—while they received the noninvasive brain stimulation.


    The researchers then tested participants' ability to automatically process the relationship of those artificial numbers to one another and to map them correctly in space using standard testing methods for numerical competence.

    The results of the tests showed that the brain stimulation improved study participants' ability to learn the new numbers. and that those improvements lasted 6 months post training.

    "I am certainly not advising people to go around giving themselves electric shocks, but we are extremely excited by the potential of our findings," said Roi Cohen Kadosh of the University of Oxford. "We've shown before that we can temporarily induce dyscalculia [with another method of brain stimulation], 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 better with maths."

    Now that their results say tDCS treatment can improve number processing in people with normal mathematical ability, the researchers plan to test its use in those with severe numerical disabilities.


    If it works, that could have important consequences, Cohen Kadosh said, as people with severe numerical disabilities often cannot manage basic tasks like understanding food labels or counting change in a supermarket. Poor numerical ability has also been linked to unemployment and low income, depression, low self-esteem, and other problems, he said.

    Citation: Roi Cohen Kadosh, Sonja Soskic, Teresa Iuculano, Ryota Kanai, and Vincent Walsh, 'Modulating Neuronal Activity Produces Specific and Long-Lasting Changes in Numerical Competence', Current Biology November 4 2010 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.10.007

    Comments

    Aitch
    Hmm

    Maths ability, dexterity, name recall, mind reading.....

    all derived from ECT,  -  now listed for banning
    The Green Party introduced a bill in the Seanad last year aimed at banning its use on patients who have not consented to the treatment. The most up-to-date information from watchdog the Mental Heath Commission showed that in 2008, 407 Irish patients had ECT with their agreement.
    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/health/electric-shock-treatment-gives-patients-brain-boost-14916064.html

    ....also derived from a certain young PhD Stanley Milgram's experiments

    "With numbing regularity good people were seen to knuckle under the demands of authority and perform actions that were callous and severe. Men who are in everyday life responsible and decent were seduced by the trappings of authority, by the control of their perceptions, and by the uncritical acceptance of the experimenter's definition of the situation, into performing harsh acts. .A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority." (Stanley Milgram 1965)

    http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/02/stanley-milgram-obedience-to-authority.php

    Having had a friend badly affected by ECT many years ago, I abhor its use, and fear its derivatives

    'Big Brother' [electro]control is embedded fearfully in my psyche

    As Hontas Farmer says, "Dont tase me bro"

    - I have to ask, 'can you see it coming?....and what should we do to prevent it?'

    Aitch
    Hank
    I sure wouldn't allow it, though some people will.  It is often the case that someone out to make a buck will take a controlled method with a defined science benefit in a few instances and invent a miracle cure they claim is backed by 'science' and foist it off on unsuspecting poor people.
    Cosmas
    The comments above reinforce the ongoing lack of understanding of the electrical nature of the nervous system. They do this by implying the use of tCDS is a form of ECT, when the former involves DC while the latter involves AC. This lack of understanding also applies, however, to the researchers using tDCS. These researchers wish to affect the brain, and do it by applying the current to the skull rather than to the nerve endings of the peripheral nerves that emerge from nervous tissue, where access to to the brain using its own circuitry is possible, making any affectation much more pronounced. Furthermore these researchers do not distinguish between anode and cathode. Nor, apparently, are they aware of the effects of polarity on neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and epinephrine, the two major neurotransmitters of the body. This information has been around at least since 1926, with the publication of H.Tilford Plank's "Actinotherapy and Allied Physical Therapy" that had a special section on DC in which cholinergia and adrenergia were related to the anode and the cathode respectively.

    No, electricity is not a strong suit for the neuroscientist. In fact one sees in the journal Bioelectrochemistry reports of Swedish researchers (Henrik von Euler in particular) trying to account for the amazing effectiveness of DC in destroying cancerous tumors, that attribute hyper-acidity to the anode and hyper-alkalinity to the cathode when in reality it is just the opposite. Why this ongoing misunderstanding? Von Euler told me in a personal email that polarity is a matter of one's point of view. It's that bad.

    Well, one problem is that the reigning biological, electrical metaphor of the cell as a battery is not supported at all by electrophysiological readings. In order to account for deviations of theory/metaphor from electrical readings a bit of mathematical trickery is conjured that lulls biologists who just plainly don't know better. If the cell really is like a battery, then when voltage readings are made, and the anode or ground is placed extracellulary (as is standard practice), then the voltage should be POSITIVE, not NEGATIVE. It's only negative when the measuring electrodes ARE MISPLACED. Furthermore, when the cell or neuron being recorded gives off an 'action potential, THE VOLTAGE CHANGES SIGN, which no battery does ever, unless it is a rechargeable battery, and it is being recharged. And if it is a rechargeable battery, when voltage readings are made, THE GROUND SHOULD BE INTERIOR TO THE CELL.

    The mathematical trickery resorted to by Hodgkin and Huxley in the 1930s, and still taught today to neuroscience students as doctrine, was the Goldman-Katz equation, an elaboration on the 1888 Nernst equation of Walther Nernst that used the term 'volt' to describe entropic pressure causing varying solution concentrations of 'elementary particles' (that could have been drops of ink or cream in your coffee) to mix. Nernst stated his equation was not about electricity. Aside from 'volt' there is not a single electrical or electromagnetic term in the equation. The equation did not allow for a negative value of the voltage, nor did it allow for sign change. The Goldman-Katz equation transmogrified the Nernst equation in the attempt to make reliance on the Nernst equation less problematic. It did this by introducing NEGATIVE ions to the equation, which was thought then to allow NEGATIVE VOLTAGES, along with ASSUMED values for membrane permeability, something missing entirely from the Nernst equation. Nernst's equation was not about flow at all. Goldman-Katz was an attempt to bring Ohm's Law into thermodynamics.

    This bit of biological flim-flammery became known as the Hodgkin-Huxley Model of the nerve impulse. It was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1963. One of the three people awarded the prize, John Eccles, thirty years later, said the model had to be wrong because it did not allow for any information value in a nervous system reputedly involved with information processing. Eccles was dismissed as a doddering old man at this point. The following year Burt Sakmann, who received the Nobel in 1991 for making possible the technology used to more fully articulate the study of cell voltages, stated that indeed the individual nerve impulse was meaningless, but that information was transmitted by varying the frequency with which meaningless messages were sent. At this time he admitted the nervous system was profoundly electrical, AND THAT IT WAS ALL DONE WITHOUT ELECTRONS, only with ion flows. And this bit of risible science is taught today as doctrine, despite its conflict with the physical sciences in which the  movement of ions in an  electrical field is R, and not I, in Ohm's Law.

    Yes, neuroscience is pathetic. And it keeps winning Nobels, for what they are worth. In 2000 three neuroscientists got the Nobel for their work studying the electricity of brain signaling, work that, so far, has had absolutely no clinical consequence. One of the three, Eric Kandel, was editor of the many-editioned instructional tome "Principles of Neural Science" in which the John Koester presents this model with a straight face as the working model of nervous electricity. Also in 2000 three chemists got the Nobel for showing that organic molecules were capable of semi-conduction, an important revelation that was entirely incapable of being appreciated by neuroscientists for whom semi-conduction was not relevant to ionic electricity. Nobel prizes for science, an archaic tradition, are not capable of correction when given to bad science. In fact the Nobel award for the use of frontal lobotomies to treat epilepsy prevented the barbaric procedure from being stamped out for another two decades. Cynicism for Nobel Peace Prizes awarded to war criminals like Obama and Kissinger, or ghoulish misanthropes like Mother Theresa and the like, does not carry over to awards for science the same way.