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Biotech Science

Electric 'Thinking Cap' Controls Learning Speed 112

An anonymous reader writes "Vanderbilt researchers say they've shown it's possible to selectively manipulate our ability to learn by applying a mild electrical current to the brain. Using an elastic headband that secured two electrodes conducted by saline-soaked sponges to the cheek and the crown of the head, the researchers applied 20 minutes of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to each subject. Depending on the direction of the current, subjects either learned more quickly, slower, or in the case of a sham current, with no change at all. The [paywalled] study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience."
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Electric 'Thinking Cap' Controls Learning Speed

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  • by ThatAblaze ( 1723456 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @12:42PM (#46557617)

    People are going to be lining up around the blockfor the "learn slower" electric charge.. if our society's obsession with alcohol is any indication.

  • by DexterIsADog ( 2954149 ) on Sunday March 23, 2014 @12:45PM (#46557637)
    ...cause when we execute people by electrocution, they certainly do learn their lesson!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23, 2014 @12:58PM (#46557705)

    The electric current sets up a radio wave which is absorbed by the axon hillock. The radio wave is generated by the constant flux in the pathway of the electric current between the electrodes. Thus, we go from DC, to very weak irregular AC. The absorption at the Axon hillock alters the chemical reaction which is thermally controlled by the ions (voltage) across the membrane which can be thought of as a thermodynamic shock-absorber. This result is junk output from the neuron which when scaled to a process like learning introduces significant noise, thus slowing the rate at which learning occurs. The noticed increase in learning may be from insufficient data, acceleration of ions in a beneficial manner, or something more complex related to the waveform.

    Interesting, but very old. The US military use a similar process on students on students and academics in foreign countries to retard their development. They have a nice big satellite setup that does away with the need for electrodes.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"