A Moment of Science

Math Skills Improve After Electric Brain Stimulation

Do you struggle with math? Well, all you may need is a little shock to the brain.

addition practice cards

Photo: Ross Belmont (flickr)

Learning mathematics can be difficult for some people.

Do you have trouble with math? Are there treatments or therapies that can help you get better at mathematics?

Good question. And the answer is, yes. Or, at least, there may be. First, though, understand that you’re not alone. Researchers estimate that something like 20% of people have some sort of math disability. Which can be difficult, especially for doing well in school and on standardized tests and the like.

Exercise Your Brain

Now, doing math is a mental exercise, of course. Some people’s brains seem hard-wired to make sense of numbers. But a group of scientists at Oxford University may have found a way to help people whose brains don’t take as easily to math.

Among a group of fifteen volunteers, they used a mild electrical current to stimulate the right hemisphere of the brains of one group, during six two hour sessions. Specifically, they stimulated the parietal lobe the part of the brain linked to working with numbers. The other group was also hooked up to electrodes but received no stimulation.

Shock Your Brain

After receiving the current, the volunteers were taught symbols representing numbers, and then tested on how quickly they could solve problems using the symbols. In the end, the volunteers getting the electrical stimulation performed better than the volunteers receiving none. They even did better on the test six months later.

Now, this single study doesn’t mean that hooking up to electrodes will solve people’s math difficulties. More studies are needed to strengthen the findings and to make sure that the procedure is safe.

The Future

But the study is a hopeful sign that there may in fact be ways to lend an electrical hand to those who struggle with math.

Read More:

  • Electric brain stimulation can improve math skills (Reuters)

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