"With just five days of cognitive training and noninvasive, painless brain stimulation, we were able to bring about long-lasting improvements in cognitive and brain functions," says Roi Cohen Kadosh of the University of Oxford and lead author of the report that appears in the May 16, 2013 issue of Current Biology. His comments were provided by the journal.
In this study, the team used a form of noninvasive deep brain stimulation known as “transcranial random noise stimulation” or TRNS. The TRNS input was combined with more traditional math training and drills. Twenty-five young adults, males and females, were divided into two groups, one receiving math training with the TRNS and the other receiving math training combined with a “sham” version of TRNS, a kind of placebo.
Not only did those who received TRNS do well immediately, but the benefits lasted for at least six months. In addition, brain monitors detected different brain activity for those receiving TRNS. This suggests that TRNS modifies brain function.
According to Cohen Kadosh, "If we can enhance mathematics, therefore, there is a good chance that we will be able to enhance simpler cognitive functions."
In the paper’s conclusion, the authors state that TRNS “can enhance learning with respect to high-level cognitive functions, namely algorithmic manipulation and factual recall in mental arithmetic. When this learning is based on deep-level cognitive processing, as is the case for calculation arithmetic, such enhancements are extremely long-lived both behaviorally and physiologically.
Then they sum up with these words:
Both the behavioral and physiological changes displayed extreme longevity, spanning a period of 6 months, but only when learning involved deep-level cognitive processing. By its demonstration of such longevity and, for the calculation task, generalization to new, unlearned material, the present study highlights TRNS as a promising tool for enhancing high-level cognition and facilitating learning. These findings have significant scientific and translational implications for cognitive enhancement in both healthy individuals and patients suffering from disorders characterized by arithmetic deficits.
The paper, Snowball et al.: "Long-Term Enhancement of Brain Function and Cognition Using Cognitive Training and Brain Stimulation," appears in the May 16, 2013 issue of Current Biology.