Neuroscience: tDCS Brain Buzz

July 24, 2012 in News Items

tdcs learning brain buzz

Scientists reviving a decades-old technique, called tDCS, for brain stimulation have found that it can boost learning. So what else can be done with some wires and a nine-volt battery?

Last year a succession of volunteers sat down in a research lab in Albuquerque, New Mexico to play ‘DARWARS Ambush!’, a video game designed to train US soldiers bound for Iraq. With just seconds to react before a blast or shots rang out, most forgot about the wet sponge affixed to their right temple that was delivering a faint electric tickle. The volunteers received a few milliamps of current at most, and the simple gadget used to deliver it was powered by a 9-volt battery.

It might sound like some wacky garage experiment, but Vincent Clark, a neuroscientist at the University of New Mexico, says that the technique, called transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS), could improve learning. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency funded the research in the hope that it could be used to sharpen soldiers’ minds on the battlefield. Yet for all its simplicity, tDCS seems to work.

None of the tDCS studies published so far have shown a type of mind-sharpening that would help in exams, but that might simply be a matter of targeting the right brain areas.