- Boost Your Brain’s Power With a 9-Volt Battery and Some Wet Sponges
- By Sebastian Anthony on April 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm
It seems, with the help of a 9-volt battery, wire, crocodile clips, and wet sponges, you can increase your brain’s performance and, more importantly, return your brain to its younger, more malleable and learning-receptive state.
The technique, which is lumbered with the fantastic and slightly terrifying name of transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS), is similar to deep brain stimulation (DBS), but it doesn’t involve complex neurosurgery. TCDS runs a very small current — just 2 milliamps — into brain tissue just beneath your scalp; it’s non-invasive, and seemingly quite safe. By pumping electrons into the brain, neurons move a few millivolts towards ‘depolarization’, which makes them more sensitive, and thus reducing the time it takes signals to travel across your nervous system.
More importantly, though, this technique increases the plasticity of brain tissue, leaving it in a kind of ‘wet clay’ state after the electrical current has been removed. These wet clay neurons are much more likely to form new synaptic connections in response to stimuli, such as learning a new skill — or playing a video game. The performance boost is significant, too: a recent study at the University of New Mexico showed that tCDS could double the “learning and performance” of test subjects who were asked to play a video game.
The implications of such a technology are massive, and they’re not limited to performance and learning, either. Depending on which regions of the brain are stimulated, tCDS can increase your working memory and verbal fluency, or improve the motor function of stroke victims. It shouldn’t shock you to learn that the New Mexico study was funded by DARPA, too — they want to know if soldiers can be ‘supercharged’, and the awful answer seems to be a resounding yes. Interestingly, in case you were wondering, tCDS can also be reversed. If electrons are drawn out of the neocortex, then neurons become less sensitive, reducing the subject’s reaction time and ability to learn.
We won’t be rushing to try on any government-issued thinking caps, then…
Read more at Nature
Image source: M. A. NITSCHE ET AL. BRAIN STIM. 1, 206–223 (2008)
HH: OKAY, SO WHO’S FIRST?