January 28, 2009
Mild Electric Shocks Speed Up Brain Learning?

Speed up training of the motor control area of the brain with mild electric shocks applied via surface electrodes. No, I am not recommending that anyone actually do this.

People who received a mild electrical current to a motor control area of the brain were significantly better able to learn and perform a complex motor task than those in control groups. The findings could hold promise for enhancing rehabilitation for people with traumatic brain injury, stroke and other conditions.

The study is presented in the January 20, 2009 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and was conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The research team from NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) worked in collaboration with investigators at Columbia University in New York City and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

But this technique does lend itself to all sorts of ways to describe it. "Our teacher is absolutely electrifying" or "I was shocked by what I learned in school today" or "The work-out made me feel tingly all over". Can you come up with something more jolting?

You can imagine kids wanting to use this technique to master a video game more rapidly.

Subjects in this study were presented with a novel and challenging motor task, which involved squeezing a "joy stick" to play a targeting game on a computer monitor, which they practiced over five consecutive days. During practice, one group received 20 minutes of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and the other group received only a 30 second "sham" stimulation. tDCS involves mild electrical stimulation applied through surface electrodes on the head, and works by modulating the excitability, or activity, of cells in the brain's outermost layers. In this study, Dr. Cohen and his team directed tDCS to the primary motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement.

Over the five-day training period, the skill of the tDCS group improved significantly more than that of the control (sham) group, apparently through an effect on consolidation. During the three month follow-up period, the two groups forgot the skill at about the same rate, but the tDCS group continued to perform better because they had learned the skill better by the end of training.

The game was very stimulating.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 January 28 09:36 PM  Brain Disorder Repair


Comments
Bob Badour said at January 29, 2009 3:06 PM:

I get a charge out of your challenge; it has me amped. I suppose there would be a lot of impedance to electrocuting kids during phys ed, and we would have to rename "track and field" to "track and fields and waves".

Post a comment
Comments:
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
URL:
Remember info?

                       
Go Read More Posts On FuturePundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright