Bad at Math? Consider a Zap to the Brain
Study finds that 'transcranial random noise stimulation' helps
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted May 17, 2013 1:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – Terrible at math? No worries, it's nothing that a little electrical stimulation can't help. Researchers from the UK and Austria found that transcranial random noise stimulation (Popular Science describes it as "a painless zap to the brain") helped subjects to learn arithmetic more quickly—and they retained their edge six months later. Subjects who received electrical stimulation through their scalps for five days performed better than subjects who did not receive the stimulation in two areas: memorizing facts (Wired gives the example of "4 # 12 = 17") and performing calculations based on invented symbols.

The electrical current bursts were given in random frequencies, which apparently excites brain cells, to an area of the brain that is used to do math. Those who received the mild shocks learned two to five times more quickly than those who did not. And while their memorizing edge didn't hold, they were still performing calculations 30% to 40% better than the non-shocked six months later, Wired reports. A larger study is needed—this one only involved 25 people—and the study leader warns, "Do not try this at home."