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Transcranial Direct-Current Stimulation Enhances Learning

February 17, 2012 at 9:05 am

In the past, I've posted about current (heh) research into tDCS: transcranial Direct Current Stimulation.  This is the practice of using electrical stimulation of the brain to improve one's ability at certain tasks (and possibly to achieve the transcendence from Man to Overman through the total elimination of pain.) Note that this is direct current stimulation—effectively equivalent to connecting somebody's brain to a battery.

It sounds crazy—like something out of a science fiction novel.  I mean, what kind of weirdo would imagine that wiring a battery directly into somebody's brain would give them heightened abilities?   Well, DARPA does, for one.

Thoughtful reader Bill Pearson forwarded this link to a story that recently appeared on Boing Boing. (Thanks, Bill!)  The Boing Boing article quotes a recent somewhat lengthy piece in New Scientist

I find it quite interesting (and, yes, validating...) that there may be a solid neuological basis for the supposition that tDCS may improve one's abilities at particular tasks.  Much of the current (heh) discussion hinges on what neurologists and neuroscientists refer to as the "flow" state, which was a completely new term to me.  (As far as I can tell, it sounds like a gussied-up and science-ified way of saying that somebody is"in the zone", in more common parlance.  Still, though, regardless of the terminology, I think it's pretty neat that there's a demonstrable neurological basis for this.) 

Right now, of course, the testing is confined to fairly basic tasks.  The current research is all about improving peoples' performace at tasks they can already perform.  Sadly, at least so far, nobody has successfully used tDCS to violate the laws of physics.



Steve Halter February 17, 2012 at 10:54 pm
Very interesting stuff although I'm a tad leery of the DIY brain stimulation discussed at the end. That might be taking hacking a step too far.
Ian February 18, 2012 at 11:16 am
Yeah, I'm not so sure how keen I would be to tinker with my own brain using instructions I found on the internet. But it's better than trepanation, which has a small but shockingly non-zero number of DIY proponents.
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