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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

High-Frequency Noise Boosts Math Skills in Study

But the treatment isn't ready for prime time yet, expert says
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Some of the participants received transcranial random noise stimulation when they performed the math tasks. Those participants were two to five times better at learning things, he said. And, six months after the stimulation, they were 28 percent better at making calculations than the other participants.

Scientists aren't sure why the stimulation treatment may boost learning and thinking, but Cohen Kadosh said it may have something to do with activating neurons in the brain.

Why might brain-zapping be a good thing? "We all want to improve our learning and to make it faster if possible, and we also want to help those who have problems in learning" due to disease, developmental problems or aging, he said. Also, "around 20 percent of the population finds math challenging."

However, don't try this at home, advised Dr. Colleen Loo, a brain researcher and professor of psychiatry at the University of New South Wales in Australia, who called the research "promising."

"If the electrodes are not correctly applied, it could cause scalp burns," Loo said. "Also, the exact placement of the positive and negative electrodes is essential, otherwise you could create quite different brain effects, including negative effects. There is still a lot more we need to know about this technology."

What's next? "There is a way to go, but this shows that it is feasible to improve human cognition and brain function in a long-lasting fashion," Cohen Kadosh said, "and this will hopefully trigger further research that will have more validity."

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