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[LINK] Learning enhancement using "transcranial direct current stimulation"

7 Post author: Alex_Altair 26 January 2012 04:18PM

Article here;


Recent research in Oxford and elsewhere has shown that one type of brain stimulation in particular, called transcranial direct current stimulation or TDCS, can be used to improve language and maths abilities, memory, problem solving, attention, even movement.

Critically, this is not just helping to restore function in those with impaired abilities. TDCS can be used to enhance healthy people’s mental capacities. Indeed, most of the research so far has been carried out in healthy adults.

The article goes on to discuss the ethics of the technique.

Comments (19)

Comment author: [deleted] 26 January 2012 06:01:19PM 12 points [-]

Slightly better version here: http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/science_blog/brainboosting.html (includes the link to the actual paper and some others at the end).

One of the concerns they raise is that the required equipment is cheap to obtain or assemble yourself which could lead to unqualified people engaging in potentially dangerous self-experimentation. Soo, any LessWrongers willing to give it a try? ;)

Comment author: Alex_Altair 26 January 2012 09:37:22PM 0 points [-]

Thanks! I changed it to that one.

Comment author: Incorrect 26 January 2012 10:44:22PM 3 points [-]

There's a subreddit for this:


Comment author: buybuydandavis 27 January 2012 06:24:47AM 2 points [-]

Woohoo. Wire me up! Where are some plans for these contraptions?

Comment author: Morendil 09 March 2012 06:34:24PM 3 points [-]

Kits allegedly coming soon. (via)

Comment author: whpearson 31 January 2012 10:03:45PM 1 point [-]

Here looks like a good place.


I'm going to be experimenting with them at the london hackspace so anyone from london is interested, give me a shout,

Comment author: staticIP 25 April 2012 12:22:17PM 0 points [-]

That ones actually a bit dangerous. The current regulator is rated to go that low, so it's going to be unreliable. In this instance unreliable means brain lesions.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 01 February 2012 12:38:59AM 0 points [-]

I got excited for a bit, but


triggered a Google malware alarm in Chrome.

Comment author: whpearson 05 February 2012 10:06:35AM 0 points [-]

Odd. I'm pretty sure the guys there aren't malicious. I've met a couple of them. So I'd guess they got attacked at some point and got black listed.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 05 February 2012 07:05:35PM 0 points [-]

Looks like they've cleared that out. I tried it again, and this time, no malware warning. Either that, or I'm already hacked.

Comment author: CronoDAS 27 January 2012 05:01:33AM *  2 points [-]

So how does this square with Algernon's Law? (That any simple change that enhances intelligence must be a net evolutionary disadvantage.)

For example, if the treatment makes it easier for a neuron to fire, it also increases the chances of a neuron firing when it's not "supposed" to (because of random noise or whatever).

Comment author: saturn 27 January 2012 11:59:34AM 8 points [-]

Evolution hasn't really caught on to the fact that calories are really easy to obtain now, so there's probably some low-hanging fruit available by subverting the brain's energy-conserving mechanisms. (I don't know whether TDCS is doing that.)

Comment author: Anubhav 28 January 2012 08:07:49AM 0 points [-]

Evolution hasn't really caught on to the fact that calories are really easy to obtain now, so there's probably some low-hanging fruit available by subverting the brain's energy-conserving mechanisms.


Comment author: Alex_Altair 23 February 2012 02:50:53AM 1 point [-]

Also a macroscopic electric field might not be "simple" for evolution.

Comment author: Rhwawn 10 March 2012 04:48:40AM *  0 points [-]

The usual explanations for tDCS relating to the NMDA receptors would be simple for evolution, though.

Comment author: Alex_Altair 10 March 2012 07:19:06AM 0 points [-]

Interesting. Where have you seen that explanation?

Comment author: Rhwawn 10 March 2012 08:09:17PM 0 points [-]

The 2012 Clark paper on tDCS doubling learning to detect concealed snipers/bombs/objects.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 22 February 2012 11:09:14PM 0 points [-]

I'm not convinced that Algernon's Law is true in general. It might apply to improving intelligence above the currently available range, but it shouldn't apply to raising intelligence within the existing range.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 27 January 2012 05:13:27PM 0 points [-]

The example of math learning seemed pretty contrived to me. Here is an 8 year old article on transcranial stimulation for drawing. If nothing else, look at the drawings made by the journalist.

The Sydney work is about magnetic stimulation, while the Oxford work is electrical, but the effects sound pretty similar. Electrical techniques are cheaper, but harder to control (2d vs 3d). The drawing article appeared in the New York Times Magazine, but the current web page lacks the drawings.