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Brain Device Successful in Improving Mathematical Skills

Update Date: May 16, 2013 04:01 PM EDT

Young children, teenagers and even adults who might not be so great at math might have a better way of improving their arithmetic skills that does not involve countless hours devoted to tutoring. According to a new study, a group of researchers might have found a way to plug the human brain to a brain stimulation device that could improve mathematical abilities. This new device, called the transcranial random noise stimulation (TRNS), which is pain free, was effective in enhancing students' skills in calculating as well as fixed learning of mathematical tasks.

The small-scale study recruited 51 Oxford University students who were asked to take two arithmetic tests that would measure their calculation and rote learning abilities each day for five days in a row. Half of the participants were plugged into TRNS, while the remaining half took the tests without any aid. TRNS works by applying electrical noise to specific regions of the cortex, which is responsible for memory and attention. These stimulations are achieved by attaching electrodes on the head, making the procedure non-invasive and painless. The researchers found immediate results in the volunteers that were given TRNS.

"With just five days of cognitive training and non-invasive, painless brain stimulation, we were able to bring about long-lasting improvements in cognitive and brain functions," said Roi Cohen Kadosh, who led the study. The researchers followed the participants and found that their enhanced mathematical abilities were maintained for six months. The researchers were amazed at how fast people's abilities seemed to improve.

Although the study had an extremely small sample set, the researchers are optimistic about the potential of TRNS. The researchers believe that after more research is done, this new device could be key in helping students, people with learning disabilities, and patients with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. However, as of right now, the researchers are still a little unclear as to how the stimulation works, which is why more studies and experiments would need to take place before this device could be marketed to educational facilities and clinics.

The findings were published in Current Biology.

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