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This Headband May Make You Smarter

Researchers have figured out a way to “wake up” the brain during learning tasks.

A team of psychologists at Vanderbilt University have recently published an article in the Journal of Neuroscience that offers their findings into research which examined prompted electrical currents in the brain and the effects on learning speed. A wearable device resembling a headband was produced for the study, and had an added feature – it can actually make the wearer smarter, even control their learning speed, with the onset of mild electrical stimulation to certain regions.

The researchers wanted to further understand the natural response that occurs in the medial-frontal cortex that is thought to hold the section in the brain that elicits the feeling we get when we have made a mistake.

Other research has uncovered that there is an increase in the amount of negative currents in this area of the human brain only split seconds following a mistake, although it is unclear as to why this happens. This particular study aimed to better understand this process, but also to examine if the brainwaves have an effect on actual learning.

The researchers induced a transcranial direct current stimulation, which is a mild direct current that travels through their equipment, which is a headband containing 2 electrodes.

Various learning tasks were introduced to the participants after they wore the headband and received a 20 minute session of stimulation. Their brainwaves were recorded, capturing the responses to mistakes.

This video shows the process of the experiment in action:

During some of the assessments, learners did not produce as many mistakes and were more responsive to the task at hand. The effects also seemed to last long after the testing, for about a 5 hour period, and were transferable to other areas requiring a task-driven mindset.

It sounds extreme, but by inducing a mild electrical current in this manner is actually one of the safer and mildest ways to produce this type of current. The currents are able to either stimulate or lessen the wearer’s responsiveness to learning assessments. During an anodal current, wearers had a measureable increase in brain activity and produced sharper results on tasks, but when a cathodal current was present the contrary was true.

Though this study seems to be promising for enhancing the boundaries that exist around human learning, but according to researchers it is also favorable for other areas that are seemingly deficient in some performance based tasks, such as with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

It also leads to an interesting future for the possibilities in scientific advancements for wearable technologies.

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