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Friday, 5 November 2010

Electric current to the brain 'boosts maths ability'

This all sounds a bit wacky to me. That you can stimulate some part of the brain and produce a particular response is something I talked about in an earlier blog, so I have no doubt about that but to say that it can improve a skill in a tangible way like say an improvement in math score is frankly a little hard to swallow.

"Applying a tiny electrical current to the brain could make you better at learning maths, according to Oxford University scientists. They found that targeting a part of the brain called the parietal lobe improved the ability of volunteers to solve numerical problems."

What's more interesting is that even six months later when tested again, the respondents still seemed to have retained some of the ability which is even more remarkable as it suggests that the effect is somewhat long lasting. However, the scientists have a word of caution - an academic caveat emptor:

"Dr Cohen Kadosh, who led the study, said: "We are not advising people to go around giving themselves electric shocks, but we are extremely excited by the potential of our findings and are now looking into the underlying brain changes."

Another scientist, Dr Christopher Chambers, from the School of Psychology at Cardiff University, said that the results were "intriguing", and offered the prospect not just of improving numerical skills, but having an impact on a wider range of conditions.

"The ability to tweak activity in parts of the brain, turning it slightly 'up' or 'down' at will, opens the door to treating a range of psychiatric and neurological problems, like compulsive gambling or visual impairments following stroke."

You have to agree that it's intriguing but equally, if there really exists a possibility to tweak parts of the brain to perform specific functions, in the wrong hands, like a Kim Jong-il or a Pol Pot, that could open up a Pandora's box of unmentionables to have to deal with as the Natzis discovered with their Eugenics programs in the early part of the last century!! It is also reminiscent of Frankenstein and the literature of the early to mid nineteenth century.

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