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Math Medicine Science

Brain Zapping Improves Math Ability 202

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up dept.
sciencehabit writes "If you are one of the 20% of healthy adults who struggle with basic arithmetic, simple tasks like splitting the dinner bill can be excruciating. Now, a new study suggests that a gentle, painless electrical current applied to the brain can boost math performance for up to 6 months. Researchers don't fully understand how it works, however, and there could be side effects." We've covered various other potential benefits to having your brain shocked.
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Brain Zapping Improves Math Ability

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:35AM (#43749847)

    OK OK I'll solve your equation. Anything! Please don't shock me again!

    *BZZZZZ*

    ARRRRGH!

  • huh (Score:5, Funny)

    by WGFCrafty (1062506) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:40AM (#43749879)

    If you are one of the 20% of healthy adults who struggle with basic arithmetic

    Wow, I never realized the majority of people struggle with this.

    • Re:huh (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:46AM (#43749911)

      One in twenty isn't a majority.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by MadKeithV (102058)
        Woosh ;-)
        • Re:huh (Score:5, Funny)

          by beelsebob (529313) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:53AM (#43749949)

          Woosh ;-)

          • Re:huh (Score:4, Funny)

            by fph il quozientatore (971015) on Friday May 17, 2013 @05:15AM (#43750063) Homepage
            I see you are one of the 40% of healthy adults who struggle with sarcasm. Don't worry, you are in good company.
            • I thought the joke was that only a tiny portion of the adult population are "healthy"
          • woosh yourself (1 in 20)

      • Clearly, you're not from North Korea.

        Although given the fact that you seem to have had a sense-of-humour bypass operation, maybe you are...

      • Re:huh (Score:4, Informative)

        by wbr1 (2538558) on Friday May 17, 2013 @06:04AM (#43750263)
        Thanks y'all. I just shot Raisin Bran out of my nose. Approximately .35 servings worth. There may still be a raisin in my sinus cavity.
      • by fredrated (639554)

        20% isn't one in twenty.

  • by Big Hairy Ian (1155547) on Friday May 17, 2013 @04:42AM (#43749893)
    It makes me wonder if there's any correlation between maths ability and epilepsy?
  • Not a "gentle, painless electrical current applied to the brain ", more like a smack round the head.

    Student performance often improved dramatically, and no permanent damage seemed to be done.

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      Not a "gentle, painless electrical current applied to the brain ", more like a smack round the head.

      Student performance often improved dramatically, and no permanent damage seemed to be done.

      That reminds me of three men in a boat [cleavebooks.co.uk], where the narrator reads an advert for liver pills.

      In the present instance, going back to the liver-pill circular, I had the symptoms, beyond all mistake, the chief among them being "a general disinclination to work of any kind."

      What I suffer in that way no tongue can tell. From my earliest infancy I have been a martyr to it. As a boy, the disease hardly ever left me for a day. They did not know, then, that it was my liver. Medical science was in a far less advanced state than now, and they used to put it down to laziness.

      "Why, you skulking little devil, you," they would say, "get up and do something for your living, can't you?" — not knowing, of course, that I was ill.

      I remember reading this as a kit and lamenting that my teachers also had no idea that this was a medical condition. But then he goes on:

      And they didn't give me pills; they gave me clumps on the side of the head. And, strange as it may appear, those clumps on the head often cured me — for the time being. I have known one clump on the head have more effect upon my liver, and make me feel more anxious to go straight away then and there, and do what was wanted to be done, without further loss of time, than a whole box of pills does now.

  • Medical developments are pretty shocking these days.
  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Friday May 17, 2013 @05:12AM (#43750041) Homepage
    Unfortunately it makes speaking proper England unpossible.
  • mA=volts?? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 17, 2013 @05:27AM (#43750113)

    from the article...

    "The electrical current slowly ramped up to about 1 milliamp—a tiny fraction of the voltage of an AA battery—"

    Perhaps the article writer could benefit from this electroshock therapy as well....

    • by jamesh (87723) on Friday May 17, 2013 @05:51AM (#43750205)

      from the article...

      "The electrical current slowly ramped up to about 1 milliamp—a tiny fraction of the voltage of an AA battery—"

      Perhaps the article writer could benefit from this electroshock therapy as well....

      Perhaps they could benefit from this http://blog.xkcd.com/2013/05/15/dictionary-of-numbers/ [xkcd.com]

      "1 milliamp [~ the amount of current applied to the brain to boost math performance for 6 months]"

      • I'm sorry, can you rephrase your reply to incorporate a comparison in terms of number of football fields? I'm unsure how to determine the relative benefit this extension would provide me with otherwise.
    • Im not seeing the problem, that IS around the amount of power that an AA battery provides.

      • by cnaumann (466328)

        I don't know if you comment is a joke or not.

        Neither mA nor Volts is a measure of power. A standard AA cell produces about 1.5 Volt of potential across its terminals. Depending on the application, the current draw (Amps) can be anywhere from a fraction of a microamp to around 1 Amp. The power (Watts) that a AA cell delivers is the voltage time the current, and can be anywhere from a fraction of a mircowatt to more than 1 Watt. The energy (Joules) that a AA cell delivers over its lifetime is the power mu

        • Neither mA nor Volts is a measure of power

          The joke

  • Because I consistently fail at writing clear and concise grammatically correct monologues.

  • by jamesh (87723) on Friday May 17, 2013 @05:53AM (#43750219)
    if 1 milliamp produces a 6 month increase in maths performance, then logically, 1 ampere should produce a 6000 month increase in maths performance. Your genius would be smokin'!
  • uhh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DragonTHC (208439) <Dragon AT gamerslastwill DOT com> on Friday May 17, 2013 @06:00AM (#43750247) Homepage Journal

    perhaps the subject should just increase their electrolye intake instead of being electrocuted.

    Proper electrolyte balance make the brain run smooth.

    • by ami.one (897193)
      That is actually quite a sensible suggestion !
    • Re:uhh (Score:4, Funny)

      by turp182 (1020263) on Friday May 17, 2013 @07:26AM (#43750701) Journal

      It's what brains crave! And Brawndo has them.

  • You can also just practice math until your good at it.
    • by dywolf (2673597)

      that's the real reason people are bad at it. lack of practice. the more you practice, the more you retain it. most people studied it once, and then never again, which leads to a very quick very large regression. and most teachers cover math in a one concept a week way, with no tie backs to previous lessons. a reliance on calculators to do the previous stuff you already learned so you can focus ont he current lesson doesnt help either. its helpful on one hand to focus on the current lesson, but when the subj

      • by TWiTfan (2887093)

        That's because the reality is that most people don't use advanced mathematics (or, these days, hardly any mathematics at all) in their day-to-day lives. Most simple mathematical exercises in the modern world have been automated, and the complex stuff is largely the purview of engineers and other specialized pros. Academia is the only place most people ever encounter it, and very few people spend their whole lives as students (my son being a rare exception).

        • by dywolf (2673597)

          tip and change calculation is hardly advanced mathmatics, yet people who's job it is to do such math dont know how to do it without the computer (register) doing it for them.

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          That's because the reality is that most people don't use advanced mathematics (or, these days, hardly any mathematics at all) in their day-to-day lives. Most simple mathematical exercises in the modern world have been automated, and the complex stuff is largely the purview of engineers and other specialized pros. Academia is the only place most people ever encounter it, and very few people spend their whole lives as students (my son being a rare exception).

          The article doesn't refer to advanced math, just ba

    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      What works even better is actually UNDERSTANDING math.
      • by Qzukk (229616)

        When does the Chinese Room [wikipedia.org] go from addition and multiplication tables to "understanding math"?

        • by Jmc23 (2353706)
          When there's a genuine mind and not an uncooperative memorizing machine of course.

          The problem with math in the US is that most of the population are unthinking sheep.

      • by sjames (1099)

        That's a different matter entirely. TFA is actually talking about arithmetic, not math.

  • Test case (Score:4, Funny)

    by Skiron (735617) on Friday May 17, 2013 @06:53AM (#43750493) Homepage

    Supposing 0.1 amp per 6 volts in 39 minutes increases mathematical ability by 2%, at what rate should the current be applied and for how long before you can work this out?

  • Manufacturing, tattoo removal, and eye surgery by lasers so far and now this? I have trouble with Geometry and Trigonometry, but I'd rather have someone teach me instead of paying several grand to have a concentrated beam of energy shot into my brain.
    • I look forward to the day when I can install the information directly. As they said in The Matrix "I know kung fu" but to use this in the real world, to be able to just install all mathematical knowledge? How great is that?
      • by Jetra (2622687)
        I'm not too particularly keen on the idea that you have to have an implant in your cerebellum. Seems like so much can go wrong. That is not to say that's a not a great idea, but it'd sure beat the hell out of trying to learn geometry (my brain refuses to learn it).
  • by Carewolf (581105) on Friday May 17, 2013 @07:04AM (#43750565) Homepage

    Hi, you look stupid, would you mind if I zap your brain?
    Uhm...
    It will make you smarter! promise.
    Uh. Okay.

    Ouch
    Muhahaha.
    I don't feel any smarter...
    Would you let me zap you again?
    No!!
    See! You are smarter already

  • Those who can count, and those who can't.

    There are 10 kinds of people. Those who think in binary and those who don't.

    There are two kinds of people, those who classify people into two kinds of people and those who don't.

  • Electrical shock therapy WILL make you smarter!

  • by moeinvt (851793) on Friday May 17, 2013 @07:50AM (#43750875)

    If you're one of the 20% of Americans that struggle with basic arithmetic, buy some of those flash cards, open a Jr. High math textbook or take some remedial education courses. STUDYING and PRACTICE improve math ability. No brain zapping required.

    The idea that there is some physiological impairment which causes 20 freakin' percent of the population to be handicapped in math ability is ridiculous. Brain zap the bureaucratic idiots in charge of our public school system instead.

    • open a Jr. High math textbook

      For learning the most basic of basic math, a Jr. High math book might be useful. If you want to actually understand what you're doing, though... maybe not.

  • If a shock which doesn't hurt you can boost your mathematical skills (twitch!) for a mere six months, then obviously those electrical shocks which did hurt me, when I was fiddling (twitch!) with electronics as a kid must be what made me (twitch! twitch!) such a freaking genius!
  • The electrical current slowly ramped up to about 1 milliamp—a tiny fraction of the voltage of an AA battery.

    Looks like somebody doesn't understand the difference between amperage and voltage.

  • by kruhft (323362) on Friday May 17, 2013 @09:40AM (#43752205) Homepage Journal

    Doing Math is mental exercise. The only real way to get any real benefits is to just do it:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=the%20secrets%20of%20mental%20arithmetic [google.com].

    http://www.google.com/search?q=1001%20math%20problems [google.com]

  • those of us who have studied bistromathematics [wikipedia.org] know that it isn't easy.
  • There's something cultural going on here too.

    How many of you have experienced a person (in my experience all women, but surely not exclusively) who, when the conversation turns to something they don't understand, always limited to the STEM realms, they make a stupid face, shake/flap their hands in the air, and say something like, "oh, my, tech geek talk. Beep beep, bloop bloop, blah, blah, blah, hahahahahaha"? I've heard them referred to as a "Science Goose" as that's sort of what the behavior looks like,

    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      I believe it's called living in a country with a substandard education system, but it doesn't matter because everybody there just knows they're the greatest thing to happen to earth since oxygen.
  • by PPH (736903) on Friday May 17, 2013 @10:21AM (#43752789)

    Memorize your multiplication tables or I shalll shock you again!

    Reminds me of a story:

    Little Zachary was doing very badly in math. His parents had tried everything...tutors, mentors, flash cards, special learning centers, and more.

    In short, everything they could think of to help his math.

    Finally, in a last ditch effort, they took Zachary down and enrolled him In the local Catholic school. After the first day, little Zachary came home with a very serious look on his face. He didn't even kiss his mother hello. Instead, he went straight to his room and started studying.

    Books and papers were spread out all over the room and little Zachary was hard at work. His mother was amazed. She called him down to dinner.

    To her shock, the minute he was done, he marched back to his room without a word, and in no time, he was back hitting the books as hard as before. This went on for some time, day after day, while the mother tried to understand what made all the difference.

    Finally, little Zachary brought home his Report Card. He quietly laid it on the table, went up to his room and hit the books. With great trepidation, His Mom looked at it and to her great surprise, Little Zachary got an 'A' in math.

    She could no longer hold her curiosity. She went to his room and said, 'Son, what was it? Was it the nuns?' Little Zachary looked at her and shook his head, no. 'Well, then,' she replied, Was it the books, the discipline, the structure, the uniforms? WHAT WAS IT?'

    Little Zachary looked at her and said, 'Well, on the first day of school when I saw that guy nailed to the plus sign, I knew they took their math seriously.'

  • It worked for Abe Normal [imdb.com]
  • Only if I had a brain. :(

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