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Electrical Brain Stimulation May Boost Math Skills
Date:11/4/2010

By Madonna Behen
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Those of you who are lousy at math may someday be able to boost your skills with the use of a painless method of electrical brain stimulation, British research suggests.

In a study published in the Nov. 4 online issue of Current Biology, neuroscientists at Oxford University report that adults with normal math abilities were able to improve their performance on a series of numerical tests with the help of a noninvasive technique known as transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS).

TDCS involves stimulating specific regions of the brain with low-level electrical currents to enhance or reduce the activity of neurons. Over the last decade, the procedure has shown promise at improving brain functioning in stroke victims as well as in people with Parkinson's disease. But this is the first study to show that TDCS can help healthy individuals do better on math tests.

"We were able to enhance math abilities, in a specific fashion, and with remarkable longevity," said lead author Roi Cohen Kadosh, a cognitive neuroscientist at Oxford's department of experimental psychology.

For the study, Cohen Kadosh and his colleagues studied 15 student volunteers between the ages of 20 and 21. The students were asked to learn a series of artificial numbers (symbols that they had never seen before that they were told represented numbers) while they received either a placebo stimulation or TDCS applied to the parietal lobe, a region situated at the back of the brain that is key to numerical understanding.

"As our aim is eventually to help children when they are experiencing learning difficulties with numbers, we wanted the adult subjects to learn new material [the artificial numbers] rather than test them with material that they already know," Cohen Kadosh explained.

His team tested the participants' ability to automatically process the
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