Electrical Shocks To Your Head Can Improve Your Math Skills?

from the sign-me-up dept

Not quite sure what to make of this one, but some new research is suggesting that electrical current applied to your head in a certain manner can improve math skills for up to 6 months. The study also found that changing the flow of the current can actually harm math skills in a similar manner. It sounds like the research is still pretty early, but various researchers are apparently getting pretty excited about being able to “stimulate” brain activity in various ways with electrical currents. Does this mean that we’re now going to start reading about electrical “doping” scandals at the next mathletes contests?

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Comments on “Electrical Shocks To Your Head Can Improve Your Math Skills?”

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Marcus Carab (profile) says:

This is big, big, big stuff. With experiments like this one and the use of magnetic waves to repress brain regions, and with brain-based behavioural alterations already being used (like laser anti-smoking therapy), we are at the threshhold of a new era that is going to raise all sorts of ethical, legal and even philosophical questions.

Get ready for the age of Humanity 2.0 and all of its exciting and terrifying consequences…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Ethical, legal and even philosophical questions?

Ethical: If you can make yourself better with no drawbacks, do it. If you don’t then don’t bitch when the person who has gets the job, the girl, the life you want. What ethical questions are there really?

Legal: huh? Human improvement through such a means hardly raises legal questions. Leave your legality out of my transcendentalism, thank you very much. If done properly, the methods of modifying ourselves will be changing more rapidly than the law can accommodate for, making this a moot point.

Philosophical: I’ve got not argument here. There are a lot of fun philosophical questions.

Moral of the story: Be ashamed to die until you’ve won some small victory for the human race. If this helps make you good enough to do that, then do it.


Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Putting “/troll” after what you write doesn’t make your position any less simplistic or silly, and it doesn’t change the fact that you said what you said… I’m confused, does “/troll” mean you just don’t want me to respond to your points? Next time, put “Troll:” at the beginning so I can skip reading them entirely.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“/troll” is a reference to a faux-HTML end tag, “</troll>”, which should be paired with a corresponding faux-HTML start tag at the beginning of the text. The start tag is generally omitted so as to not spoil the surprise.

The same way something within a “blockquote” element is a block quote, something within a (fake) “troll” element would be trolling.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Trolling has always been about a good laugh. Back in the old days it was far more humorous for a great number of people as a good old joshing. Nowadays trolling has taken some dark turns. The fine gentleman here I believe wants to harken back to the good ol days of trolling but since that is impossible in the current internet atmosphere he adds the /troll end tag as a sort of 😉 to know that you shouldn’t take him seriously.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: How about a little thought experiment

So obviously applying electrical shocks to improve performance seems like an interesting and exciting area.

Which means the big money companies (BMC’s)will all rush to patent the next generation of, “Human augmentation via the application of phase induced electrical current (aka Electro-shock therapy with a different current and amplitude basically).

Not long after this the first ‘Augmented Humans’ will start being sued into poverty for daring to apply electric current to their brains in their own homes, thus violating BMC’s intellectual property (not really, but they will find a way to stretch this…. think Repo Men, but with non-removable parts, they can’t take what you did yourself, so they will just take everything you have).

Am I joking? Possibly, but just wait a decade or so and see what starts happening. This isn’t even considering the fact that only the ‘haves’ will be able to get/afford the official ‘augmentation’ leaving everyone else to ‘jack’ themselves with electricity in their own homes….

Cynical much? Yep 😉

KenDowns (profile) says:

Relation to Idiot-Savants

I first heard of this on a PBS special, where they examined idiot-savants and theorized that most people’s left hemisphere is dominant, which handles judgment calls but is not so good with details. They found that idiot-savants tended to be right hemisphere dominant, leading to the uncanny ability to memorize a book just by glancing at it, but being unable to discuss it as a literary work.

The best link I could come up with is this:


GonzoBobH (profile) says:

Re: Relation to Savants

You will notice that in the article you referenced they do not use the word “idiot.” Nor will also not hear it within professional circles. It’s pretty easy to understand why. It is a tad offensive and demeaning, as well as factually inaccurate. Say what you want; this is just FYI that you won’t hear the term used as frequently anymore.



A Dan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The article says 1 mA, non-invasive transcranial. Three groups: one had no stimulation, one had right parietal lobe stimulation, one had left parietal lobe stimulation. The right parietal lobe stimulation had “significantly” better scores. I would question that; it’s hard to have statistically significant results with a study population of only 15 people.

You should read the article. It’s surprisingly well-written.

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Surly Joking (sic)

Does this mean that we’re now going to start reading about electrical “doping” scandals at the next mathletes contests?

I think I detect a little bit of sarcasm there. Do you have a problem with the free market of information?

Sports writers rode the wave of fervor they whipped up all the way to congressional inquiries. People were shocked and incited when they understood professional athletes tried many ways to gain an advantage in their most competitive of professions.

The people were DUPED into thinking they were being entertained by winners. The attention this matter still garners from our federal AG illustrates the grave nature of the allegations involved.

If we were to stop impugning performance enhancement now, jobs would be lost! Thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands of jobs.

You can’t stop the fish from getting reeled in when the bait has been swallowed hook, line and sinker.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Haha

“Because electrocuted means it was to death.”

Not really. If you work around high power (current) AC or DC there is a high risk of non-fatal electrocution made all the higher if you don’t know what you’re doing.

People lose limbs, extremities like feet and hands, serious burns and serious nerve damage due to electrocution quite frequently. Particularly those who are trying to steal copper off telephone/power poles or below the street when copper prices are high.

I’ve got a few scars from getting zapped by high current DC when I was younger and am probably lucky to have gotten away with just a scar or three.

One other point that should be brought up is that low level electroshock therapy is used to snap some people out of depressions.

Or you can be like me and do-it-yourself by having a grand mal seizure though I wouldn’t recommend it.

SLK8ne says:


Very interesting, if true.
But, I can see it being made mandatory in schools too. “Little Johnny can’t do math, no problem. Let me hook up the electrodes, and we’ll fix that!”
The issue I see is what are the side effects? Getting a short term improvement in my math skills and, say, getting brain cancer 10 years from now, or schizophrenia, doesn’t seem like a good trade off to me.

I mean how many drug recalls have we seen where something was advertised as a wonder drug, and found to have horrifying consequences for some of the people taking it.

Not really sure I want someone screwing with my brain’s magnetic field if they aren’t absolutely sure it’s not going to drive me crazy…er.

Electricity! The new Riddlin!
I’m overjoyed -__-

bentsn (profile) says:

Not credible!

I have read the original paper in Current Biology: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822%2810%2901234-0.
From my point of view as a scientist, there is no evidence of any real effect presented in the paper. If there is any effect, it is minuscule. It is a bad sign that the actual data are hidden in the supplementary materials.

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