Tuition, practice papers and even essence of chicken supplements -- do all these improve your kid’s math abilities? If not, here’s a literally shocking method that scientists have recently discovered to be useful in increasing a person’s mathematical skills.
In the University of Oxford, scientists have recently found that passing a low current of electricity through a person’s brain can help them learn math better. According to Dr Roi Cohen Kadosh, the lead researcher of the university’s department of experimental psychology, the study showed a new “safe and cheap way we can improve people’s maths with limited intervention”.
How does this work?
The team of UK scientists has discovered the effectiveness of passing a mild electric current through the human skull and into the brain’s parietal lobe, a part involved with numerical processing. Known as transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS), this method increases the activity of neurons in the brain.
Brain scans on patients reveal that there was an increased supply of oxygen and nutrients to the organ while the process was underway. Explaining how they were stimulating the part of the brain that deals with math, Dr Cohen Kadosh showed how this process, which patients will barely feel due to the low frequency of the current, improves number processing abilities.
Excited with their new finding, the scientist hopes that this would address low numeracy problems and help those with dyscalculia, a learning disability that hampers one’s mathematical competence.
In the research, 25 out of 50 participants were given electrical stimulation for 20 minutes during the 45-minutes math session. This took place five times and following that, it was observed that the treated patients learned, recalled and calculated 30% better than those who did not receive the stimulation.
The painless and mild treatment also showed a sustained increase in math abilities even after six months. In addition, this process also has no measurable effect on other functions of the brain. That said, however, Dr Cohen Kadosh insists that the team was not encouraging people to “go around giving themselves electric shocks”.
What’s the big deal?
While more in-depth and comprehensive research still remains to be done, scientists all over the world are intrigued over what this discovery could bring to the world. With the potential to improve a myriad of other brain activities, this finding could even help alleviate the negative effects of stroke and enhance pain management in patients, conditions with roots in the brain and its nervous system.
To parents who want to transform their kids into Newtons and Einsteins overnight, however — there is bad news. Although this treatment does aid in helping people cope better with math and assist those with limited learning abilities, it will not turn a user into a math whiz just like that. The study does not prove that the learning of maths skills improved, but just that the treated people were better at linking arbitrary numbers and symbols.
To the kids who think this is a way out of studying — we’re sorry, you’d still have to hit the books.
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