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thinkahol on 2011-08-20Apply the electrodes...
Externally modulating the brain's activity can boost its performance.
The easiest way to manipulate the brain is through transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which involves applying electrodes directly to the head to influence neuron activity with an electric current.
Roi Cohen Kadosh's team at the University of Oxford showed last year that targeting tDCS at the brain's right parietal lobe can boost a person's arithmetic ability - the effects were still apparent six months after the tDCS session (newscientist.com/article/dn19679).
More recently, Richard Chi and Allan Snyder at the University of Sydney, Australia, demonstrated that tDCS can improve a person's insight. The pair applied tDCS to volunteers' anterior frontal lobes - regions known to play a role in how we perceive the world - and found the participants were three times as likely as normal to complete a problem-solving task (newscientist.com/article/dn20080).
Brain stimulation can also boost a person's learning abilities, according to Agnes Flöel's team at the University of Münster in Germany. Twenty minutes of tDCS to a part of the brain called the left perisylvian area was enough to speed up and improve language learning in a group of 19 volunteers (Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20098).
Using the same technique to stimulate the brain's motor cortex, meanwhile, can enhance a person's ability to learn a movement-based skill (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0805413106).