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Electricity ups knack for numbers?

A noninvasive tool that emits weak electrical currents appears to help people during tests related to mathematical ability

Janelle Weaver
Electrically stimulating the brain makes it easier for people to perform particular numerical tests, suggesting a similar technique may one day help people with math deficiencies, according to a small study published today in Current Biology.
One of the study subjects
with the TDCS machine
Image: Tudor Popescu
The researchers used a noninvasive technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS), in which scalp electrodes emit current that modulates the activity of populations of neurons that lie underneath them. Volunteers who received current over their right parietal lobe, a brain region at the back of the head known to contribute to spatial and math aptitude, became more proficient at tricky numerical tasks as they learned them over the course of about a week. "This is the first time I've seen that TDCS can modulate performance in basic number [tests]," said cognitive neuroscientist linkurl:Daniel Ansari;http://psychology.uwo.ca/faculty/ansari_res.htm of the University of Western Ontario, who...
The Scientist.R. Cohen Kadosh, et al., "Modulating neural activity produces specific and long-lasting changes in numerical competence," Current Biology, 20: 1-5, 2010.



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