New Electric Thinking Cap Stimulates the Brain’s Learning Capabilities

By: | September 5th, 2014

Image courtesy YouTube

Scientists at Vanderbilt University developed a literal thinking cap, driving the notion that accelerated learning can come from just a light electrical current. Robert Reinhart and assistant professor of psychology Geoffrey Woodman are the brains behind the invention, and state that it’s simply administrating a low level current to stimulate the brain’s learning capabilities.

At first glance, this may sound like snake oil, but our thoughts are made up of electrochemical signals. With a little jolt added to our medial frontal cortex (a brain region that governs adaptive behavior), we might be more adept at learning mistakes and at faster speeds.

The research for this was merely to examine the effect mistakes have on the brain, but has now uncovered new evidence that our brain is stimulated when we do and a bit of added electricity doesn’t hurt the cause either.

“That’s what we set out to test: what is the actual function of these brainwaves?” Reinhart stated, “We wanted to reach into your brain and causally control your inner critic.”

To test it they gathered a group of volunteers, and gave them learning tasks with high chance of mistake. They asked them to learn from the incorrect answer and then apply the correct one while wearing the cap. The cap was to be worn for 20 minutes during the testing and a transcranial direct current stimulation (tCDS) applied. This current is also used in treating depression and Parkinson’s disease.

During the testing, brain activity was monitored, and the results showed that the group receiving the tCDS had a higher negative stimulation when mistakes were made as compared to the control group. Therefore, they made fewer  mistakes.

Maybe this technology will be used to stimulate learning in standard education one day, or become available to buy in retail stores. One can only imagine.

Austin Miller

I am an aspiring physicist, with an interest in art and technology.

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