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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  1.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 9th, 2010 @ 8:32am

    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...

     

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  2.  
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    KenDowns, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 9:05am

    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:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1211299.stm

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 9:09am

    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.

    /troll

     

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  4.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 9th, 2010 @ 9:12am

    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.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 9:16am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Nope, just means I'm trolling. Much like /s just means I'm being sarcastic, /i just means I'm italicizing something, or a href means I'm linking something.

     

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  6.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 9th, 2010 @ 9:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Ah, okay. Not sure why someone would want to proudly label themselves a pain in the ass and a detractor from intelligent discussion, but that's your prerogative.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 9:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Well, I'm going to act as such regardless, so a while ago I struck upon the idea of bring at least a little civility to it by clarifying my intent. I find it saves some people time.

     

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  8.  
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    R. Miles (profile), Nov 9th, 2010 @ 9:41am

    Makes sense.

    Especially when a crotch shot improves the eye-leg coordination unlike anything else.
    :P

    Electricity. The fix for everything!

    Tesla was ahead of his time.

     

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  9.  
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    wtachi, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 9:45am

    I wonder how effective it is on people who are already good at math...

     

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  10.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Nov 9th, 2010 @ 9:46am

    Books

     

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  11.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Nov 9th, 2010 @ 9:48am

    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.

     

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  12.  
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    Ryan Diederich, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 9:48am

    Haha

    Ive been electrocuted maybe 25-40 times in my life (120v AC)

    Im good at math too. Hmm.

     

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  13.  
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    A Dan (profile), Nov 9th, 2010 @ 9:51am

    Re:

    This study actually was focused on your ability to learn, not your skills. So it's not about increasing math ability, it's about improving recall of something you're learning when the procedure is performed. This would function as a studying enhancement.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 9:51am

    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.

     

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  15.  
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    A Dan (profile), Nov 9th, 2010 @ 9:53am

    Re: Haha

    Electrocuted as in required CPR? Because electrocuted means it was to death. If you've really needed to be brought back that many times, I feel bad for you.

     

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  16.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Nov 9th, 2010 @ 9:58am

    Re:

    "I wonder how effective it is on people who are already good at math..."

    I don't know. What I am wondering is this at electroshock levels or in the low volatage in the mA range

     

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  17.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Nov 9th, 2010 @ 10:12am

    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.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Michael, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 10:25am

    Great Idea!

    This is evidence that it should be completely legal to taser the lazy high school kid at the counter when he cannot count my change.

    For goodness sake kid - I gave you the 17 cents - my change is $3 even!

     

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  19.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 9th, 2010 @ 10:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'm not actually unfamiliar with that, but thanks. I was mostly trying to determine why anyone would proudly declare themselves a troll, and how exactly they expect a less childish community to respond to that.

     

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  20.  
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    A Dan (profile), Nov 9th, 2010 @ 11:02am

    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.

     

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  21.  
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    A Dan (profile), Nov 9th, 2010 @ 11:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Haha

    Being shocked is not being electrocuted. Electrocuted means electrically stopped heart (via wikipedia and various online dictionaries).

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: Haha

    no it doesnt.

     

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  23.  
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    SLK8ne, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 11:32am

    Hm....

    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 -__-

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 11:36am

    Re: Re:

    What does it mean if I agree with someone who is trolling??

    BTW I have an inventory of Liss stimulators if anybody wants to buy them. They are $23 each, or two for $47. I have been using them for years and it has really helped my math skills!

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 11:59am

    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.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    GonzoBobH, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 12:00pm

    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.

    Cheers.

    GBH

     

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  27.  
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    GonzoBobH, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    That reminds me of the saying, There are 10 types of people in the world...

     

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  28.  
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    GonzoBobH, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    That reminds me of the saying, There are 10 types of people in the world...

     

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  29.  
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    jimi zapped hendrix, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 12:34pm

    purple haze

    OH ya now i can keep the finger in a socket

     

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  30.  
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    marak (profile), Nov 9th, 2010 @ 12:45pm

    Well ive got a big week coming in programming, might just use that knife to fix that stil-plugged-in-toaster :P

     

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  31.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Nov 9th, 2010 @ 2:02pm

    Perfect!

    I know just what to get members of the US Government and Federal Reserve for Christmas . . .

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 2:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Did you have to say that 10 times?

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2010 @ 2:50pm

    Re: Haha

    "25-40 times"

    Obviously, its not helping your recall.

     

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  34.  
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    bentsn (profile), Nov 10th, 2010 @ 5:12am

    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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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2010 @ 5:36am

    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 ;)

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2010 @ 12:50pm

    Re: Re:

    exactly!! why did'nt this appear on top of the comments!

     

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