Straight out of the timeless classic, “One flew over the cuckoo’s Nest” – The scene where Mr. McMurphy gets zapped in hope of improved psychiatric care just never leaves our mind. While the scene was heart-wrenching and not for the faint-of heart, Electric stimulation and Electro-therapy are age-old therapies used in psychiatry for better performance in the form of reduced depression, better mood control and to increase motivation (and reduce apathy).
A recent study held by Oxford University, headed by Ray Cohen Kadosh – tested the hypothesis that electricity can synchronize brain waves and improve the mathematical skills of their test participants. Neurons are the structural and functional units of the nervous systems. Thoughts and Intelligence are the sum-total of each neuron communicating with another neuron seamlessly and instantly to be able to find a solution quickly. Bio-Electricity in the form of ion-exchanges and action potentials are responsible for “lighting up” neurons and passage of a message in a fraction of a second. Thus, interfering with “bio electricity” can produce a positive change and help us overcome our weaknesses looks a very promising prospect.
Using a process known as TransCranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) on the parietal lobe ( a region of the brain just above the right-ear) – participants were shown made-up symbols representing numbers 1 to 9. Participants gradually worked out by performing tests in which they were asked which symbol was numerically higher than another. It was observed that with the use of small electric currents, participants were 2-5 times faster at having better numerical abilities, when compared to individuals who were given a sham cranial stimulation. Participants who received magnetic stimulation form left to right over the Right parietal lobe (the area responsible for mathematical ability) Showed improved mathematical abilities even when examined after six months.
Mr. Kardosh, the principal consultant for this test remarked: “It is already known that TransCranial Direct Current Stimulation affects neurotransmitters involved in learning, memory and plasticity, so we presume that these are being manipulated in this study to cause long-term changes in the brain.”
While zapping your brain with electricity is not going to make you a genius overnight, the premise that at least 1 in 5 people (all over the world) can be better at mathematical abilities and better manage their time and simple calculations. Specially the fact that people that have severe numerical disabilities often can’t manage basic tasks like understanding simple product labels or counting change in a supermarket and that poor mathematical ability has also been linked to low self-esteem, low income or unemployment, depression, and other problems, a simple non-invasive, and possibly no side-effect mind-zapping exercise can be a game-changer for such people with dyscalculia and various other neurological disorders as well. tDCS has proven its efficacy in mitigating depression in the long-term in susceptible individuals and has made its way in mainstream Out-patient psychiatry department procedures.
Though unclear how this technique actually works, scientists claim that current can help sync the neurons of our brains which expressly translates to better abilities. Further, when a stream of magnetic pulses target a specific brain-region, they temporarily disable the opposing brain region to further bring about more optimized versions of ourselves.
Needless to say, this technique requires precise calculations at the part of various agencies like the Psychiatrist, technician and the general physician. A series of blood-tests assessing the electrolyte levels are required to ensure that adverse events do not occur which may even be fatal. tCDS is not a magic bullet that can be an “Umbrella Cure” but for a technique to bring about rapid change and without any pervasive side-effects can be a boon for people who suffer from lifelong disorders like the examples mentioned at the start of this article.