Using electrical noise to excite a part of the brain could actually help people who struggle with math get better at it, according to a new study. This research was done by the Universities of Surrey and Oxford, along with Loughborough University and Radboud University in The Netherlands.
In this cool study, scientists looked at how using electrical stimulation on the brain could affect learning. Even though people are becoming more interested in this method that doesn’t involve surgery, we don’t know much about how it changes the brain’s activity and how it affects learning.
The researchers found that when they used electrical noise to stimulate the front part of the brain, it helped people who weren’t very excited about math become better at it. But this improvement didn’t happen for those who already liked math or for the groups that didn’t get the real stimulation. The scientists think that the electrical noise affects certain parts of the brain and makes it more active, which helps with learning.
Professor Roi Cohen Kadosh, who’s really into how our brains work and teaches at the University of Surrey, led this project. He said:
“Learning is super important for everything we do – from picking up new skills, like driving a car, to learning how to code. Our brains are always soaking up new information and learning new things.
“We’ve shown before that how well you learn is connected to how excited your brain cells are. So, this time, we wanted to find out if using our special stimulation technique could make this activity even stronger and help people get better at math.”
They got 102 people to join the study and gave them math problems to solve. Then, they split the participants into four groups: one that learned and got electrical stimulation, another that learned a lot and got stimulation, and two more groups that learned and learned a lot but didn’t really get the real stimulation – it was like a pretend version. They measured brain activity before and after the stimulation using EEG recordings.
Dr Nienke van Bueren from Radboud University, who was supervised by Professor Cohen Kadosh, said:
“These results show that people with less active brains might benefit more from the stimulation, which helps them learn better. But those with very active brains might not see the same improvement in their math skills.”