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Brain Zapping Improves Math Ability

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the power-up dept.

Math 202

sciencehabit writes "If you are one of the 20% of healthy adults who struggle with basic arithmetic, simple tasks like splitting the dinner bill can be excruciating. Now, a new study suggests that a gentle, painless electrical current applied to the brain can boost math performance for up to 6 months. Researchers don't fully understand how it works, however, and there could be side effects." We've covered various other potential benefits to having your brain shocked.

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How it really works (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43749847)

OK OK I'll solve your equation. Anything! Please don't shock me again!

*BZZZZZ*

ARRRRGH!

So that's how Stalin .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750127)

AH, so that explains all those Russian math genius during the Stalin error!

While these people were in "reeducation camps" having their testicles electrocuted, he accidentally created math geniuses!

I for one welcome our Soviet Math Genius creator overlords!

Re:So that's how Stalin .... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750299)

I think you'll be pleased to know that my rancid, feces-infested anushole is open to you and your putrid cock. What say you?

What say you?

What say you?

What say you?

What say you?

Re:How it really works (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750719)

So, Peter Venkman was doing it ok!

huh (5, Funny)

WGFCrafty (1062506) | about a year ago | (#43749879)

If you are one of the 20% of healthy adults who struggle with basic arithmetic

Wow, I never realized the majority of people struggle with this.

Re:huh (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43749911)

One in twenty isn't a majority.

Re:huh (3, Funny)

MadKeithV (102058) | about a year ago | (#43749943)

Woosh ;-)

Re:huh (5, Funny)

beelsebob (529313) | about a year ago | (#43749949)

Woosh ;-)

Re:huh (3, Funny)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | about a year ago | (#43750063)

I see you are one of the 40% of healthy adults who struggle with sarcasm. Don't worry, you are in good company.

Re:huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750117)

I see you are one of the 30% of Slashdotters who reply too far down the thread.

Re:huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750145)

That number looks made up.

Re:huh (1)

Laglorden (87845) | about a year ago | (#43750323)

96,57% of all statistics on the Internet is made up.

Re:huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750437)

Hello, this is the Internet, and I'd just like to say that's flatly untrue. I am a reliable source of consistent and relevant information.

Re: huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750457)

Most numbers are made up

Re: huh (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750503)

Most numbers are not made up. A finite number of people have had a finite amount of time to make up numbers, so there are finitely many made up numbers. Since we know that there are infinitely many numbers, most numbers have not yet been made up.

Re: huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750559)

Since the universe is infinite, it also contains infinitely many people, who have made up about every number one can think of. If nobody can think of a number, one may question if it exists at all.

Re: huh (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43750841)

But numbers found on the internet were put there by people. There are infinitely many more numbers not found on the internet than can be found on the internet.

Re:huh (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | about a year ago | (#43750539)

I see you are one of the 40% of healthy adults who struggle with sarcasm. Don't worry, you are in good company.

I see you are one of the 102% of basement dwellers who struggles with Poe's Law [rationalwiki.org] .

Re:huh (2)

getmerexkramer (955191) | about a year ago | (#43750807)

I thought the joke was that only a tiny portion of the adult population are "healthy"

Re:huh (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | about a year ago | (#43750545)

I think the only proper response at such a moment from me is..



Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.....................

Re:huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43749981)

One in twenty is 5%, to be precise.

20% is every fifth.

Re:huh (-1)

vikingpower (768921) | about a year ago | (#43750037)

This thread is quite a nice practical demonstration that there are, indeed, adults who struggle with basic arithmetic, Whether or not the above Slashtards are healthy remains to be established.....

Re:huh (5, Funny)

durrr (1316311) | about a year ago | (#43750089)

It's also a nice practical demonstration that there are, indeed, adults who struggle with understanding humor.

Re:huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750085)

Woosh to the Woosh ;-)

Re:huh (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#43750635)

So how do you fix reading comprehension? One of the 20% is not one in 20. It's one of the 20 out of 100 people. Sigh.

Re:huh (2)

rockout (1039072) | about a year ago | (#43750723)

So how do you fix sarcasm comprehension?

Re:huh (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#43750773)

No I got it, and it has nothing to do with the misinterpretation but rather the "1 in 20" being a "majority". Nice try though, claim it was the intent all along.

Re:huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750809)

I thought it was funnier when the "1 in 20" comment was modded insightful. Made it a little less obvious.

Re:huh (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year ago | (#43749999)

Clearly, you're not from North Korea.

Although given the fact that you seem to have had a sense-of-humour bypass operation, maybe you are...

Re:huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750047)

Go back and read his comment again.

Re:huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750227)

Who said it's about the majority?

Re:huh (3, Informative)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year ago | (#43750263)

Thanks y'all. I just shot Raisin Bran out of my nose. Approximately .35 servings worth. There may still be a raisin in my sinus cavity.

Re:huh (1)

fredrated (639554) | about a year ago | (#43750731)

20% isn't one in twenty.

Re:huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43749919)

Then you probably also haven't realized that a majority of people are unintelligent.

mod parent funny : (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43749965)

nice one!

Re:huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750237)

4 out of 3 people struggle with math;-)

Re:huh (1)

verbatim (18390) | about a year ago | (#43750845)

4 out of 3 people struggle with math;-)

9 out of 10 statisticians cannot count to 10.

Statistics are fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43749887)

So math performance is measured in months... Interesting. Any general data about the population available?

Interesting (2)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year ago | (#43749893)

It makes me wonder if there's any correlation between maths ability and epilepsy?

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750029)

It makes me wonder if there's any correlation between maths ability and epilepsy?

Don't ask me, I don't know whether it makes you wonder that or not.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750783)

As soon as they can hold the pencil steady long enough, we'll find out.

Re:Interesting (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43750849)

It would have to be negative.

It kills the fashion sense though (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43749901)

...and test subjects kept mentioning spherical cows.

Re:It kills the fashion sense though (1)

cyborg_zx (893396) | about a year ago | (#43750307)

I wouldn't eat meat from a spherical cow (it would be like someone giving you a bit of snot and putting it in a sandwhich) but I would bang on a power line to remove the tension in the lines to avoid the scourge of heavy electricity.

Neuron Massage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43749907)

I think of it as a bit of massage for the neurons. Seems perfectly plausible, just like physical massage for muscles can be relieving.

Welcome to 2010 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43749977)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11692799

When I was in school, they had something like this (1, Interesting)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year ago | (#43749989)

Not a "gentle, painless electrical current applied to the brain ", more like a smack round the head.

Student performance often improved dramatically, and no permanent damage seemed to be done.

Re:When I was in school, they had something like t (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#43750065)

Not a "gentle, painless electrical current applied to the brain ", more like a smack round the head.

Student performance often improved dramatically, and no permanent damage seemed to be done.

That reminds me of three men in a boat [cleavebooks.co.uk] , where the narrator reads an advert for liver pills.

In the present instance, going back to the liver-pill circular, I had the symptoms, beyond all mistake, the chief among them being "a general disinclination to work of any kind."

What I suffer in that way no tongue can tell. From my earliest infancy I have been a martyr to it. As a boy, the disease hardly ever left me for a day. They did not know, then, that it was my liver. Medical science was in a far less advanced state than now, and they used to put it down to laziness.

"Why, you skulking little devil, you," they would say, "get up and do something for your living, can't you?" — not knowing, of course, that I was ill.

I remember reading this as a kit and lamenting that my teachers also had no idea that this was a medical condition. But then he goes on:

And they didn't give me pills; they gave me clumps on the side of the head. And, strange as it may appear, those clumps on the head often cured me — for the time being. I have known one clump on the head have more effect upon my liver, and make me feel more anxious to go straight away then and there, and do what was wanted to be done, without further loss of time, than a whole box of pills does now.

Re:When I was in school, they had something like t (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750119)

If you want to improve student performance, sure, but conditioning people to associate doing complex work with pain isn't going to work so well when those people are done and out in the workforce.

Re:When I was in school, they had something like t (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750245)

Yes, zap their brains instead.

Re:When I was in school, they had something like t (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750915)

"no permanent damage seemed to be done."

Judging by the amount of political tosh most of the generation last educated when smacks round the head support I think it might have in fact left them severely brain damaged.

Modern Psychology (2)

ButchDeLoria (2772751) | about a year ago | (#43750003)

Medical developments are pretty shocking these days.

If your problem is splitting the bill... (0)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#43750011)

... then your problem is not math ability, but generally low intelligence. Ever heard of pocket calculators? Or doing division on paper? Everybody has mental weak spots, the question is whether thy can work around them or not.

Re:If your problem is splitting the bill... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#43750473)

Every body has mentel week spots? Your a dandy to think that. Most of us has no such weekness and as such you should shut you're pie whole. philistine!

Side effects (4, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#43750041)

Unfortunately it makes speaking proper England unpossible.

Re:Side effects (1)

mrbester (200927) | about a year ago | (#43750229)

Then read more. To read makes your speaky English good.

Re:Side effects (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750261)

Unpossible [wiktionary.org] occurs in earlier versions of The King James Bible [thebx.net] .

Re:Side effects (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750755)

Unfortunately it makes speaking proper England unpossible.

An may cause urine stains. But, it's totally worth it now that I can split a dinner check.

4#10=23? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750083)

Does anyone really know what that means?

Re:4#10=23? (1)

fredrated (639554) | about a year ago | (#43750741)

I don't, and I have a degree in mathematics!

Re:4#10=23? (1)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#43750881)

It means "ã]6". At least that's what I got after pasting it into a base 64 converter. But I'm not sure I understand it any better now.

mA=volts?? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750113)

from the article...

"The electrical current slowly ramped up to about 1 milliamp—a tiny fraction of the voltage of an AA battery—"

Perhaps the article writer could benefit from this electroshock therapy as well....

Re:mA=volts?? (5, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | about a year ago | (#43750205)

from the article...

"The electrical current slowly ramped up to about 1 milliamp—a tiny fraction of the voltage of an AA battery—"

Perhaps the article writer could benefit from this electroshock therapy as well....

Perhaps they could benefit from this http://blog.xkcd.com/2013/05/15/dictionary-of-numbers/ [xkcd.com]

"1 milliamp [~ the amount of current applied to the brain to boost math performance for 6 months]"

Re:mA=volts?? (2)

kruach aum (1934852) | about a year ago | (#43750619)

I'm sorry, can you rephrase your reply to incorporate a comparison in terms of number of football fields? I'm unsure how to determine the relative benefit this extension would provide me with otherwise.

How about for language. (1)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year ago | (#43750167)

Because I consistently fail at writing clear and concise grammatically correct monologues.

Extrapolation (3, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | about a year ago | (#43750219)

if 1 milliamp produces a 6 month increase in maths performance, then logically, 1 ampere should produce a 6000 month increase in maths performance. Your genius would be smokin'!

Re:Extrapolation (1)

parkinglot777 (2563877) | about a year ago | (#43750433)

Your maths is correct, but that means you have an assumption of linearly incremental performance equation. What if the incremental equation is instead a 1/x? So that the result would opposite!

Re:Extrapolation (1)

fazig (2909523) | about a year ago | (#43750455)

Similar to Terry Pratchett's famous: "Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life."

uhh (5, Interesting)

DragonTHC (208439) | about a year ago | (#43750247)

perhaps the subject should just increase their electrolye intake instead of being electrocuted.

Proper electrolyte balance make the brain run smooth.

Re:uhh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750283)

Brawndo, because why would plants ever want water?

Re:uhh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750379)

Plus, it's what plants crave!

Re:uhh (1)

ami.one (897193) | about a year ago | (#43750417)

That is actually quite a sensible suggestion !

Re:uhh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750445)

He should drink some Brawndo. Brawndo has electrolytes!

Re:uhh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750519)

Beer is an electrolyte, right?

Re:uhh (1)

kruach aum (1934852) | about a year ago | (#43750667)

Researchers "don't fully understand how it works," which means they don't know what the causal mechanism is that provides this benefit, which means you don't either, which means it may have nothing to do with electrolytes (despite the proximity of the word 'electrolyte' to the word 'electricity' in the dictionary). Also, 'to electrocute' means 'to execute with electricity.' While I'm sure there are zombies with mathematical abilities superior to those of some undergrads, I imagine the study's authors went for a different experimental set-up. The ethics committee hearings would be epic.

Re:uhh (3, Funny)

turp182 (1020263) | about a year ago | (#43750701)

It's what brains crave! And Brawndo has them.

Practice works (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year ago | (#43750295)

You can also just practice math until your good at it.

Re:Practice works (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year ago | (#43750529)

that's the real reason people are bad at it. lack of practice. the more you practice, the more you retain it. most people studied it once, and then never again, which leads to a very quick very large regression. and most teachers cover math in a one concept a week way, with no tie backs to previous lessons. a reliance on calculators to do the previous stuff you already learned so you can focus ont he current lesson doesnt help either. its helpful on one hand to focus on the current lesson, but when the subject matter builds on previous lessons, it becomes a tradeoff, particularly if you then need to go back and demonstrate every piece of the process 2 and 3 or more years later on a comprehensive professional exam. students who do everything by hand, including the "easy, earlier" stuff retain it better and longer, and in my experience have had far less trouble passing those exams (and required fewer/no cram sessions with things like "the EIT for Dummies").

Re:Practice works (2)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#43750839)

That's because the reality is that most people don't use advanced mathematics (or, these days, hardly any mathematics at all) in their day-to-day lives. Most simple mathematical exercises in the modern world have been automated, and the complex stuff is largely the purview of engineers and other specialized pros. Academia is the only place most people ever encounter it, and very few people spend their whole lives as students (my son being a rare exception).

Brain Overclocking (1)

Jeremiah Smith (2886481) | about a year ago | (#43750297)

More voltage!!! :)

Re:Brain Overclocking (1)

rts008 (812749) | about a year ago | (#43750669)

The problem here, is getting the public to adopt heatsinks on their heads as fashionable.

But then again, I do remember beanie hats with propellers, polyester leisure suits and platform shoes, and disco.....

Nevermind.

Wonders never cease (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750395)

This is great, now electric shocks aren't just for boosting ESP abilities. Dr Venkman first established this fact back in 1984.

Test case (3, Funny)

Skiron (735617) | about a year ago | (#43750493)

Supposing 0.1 amp per 6 volts in 39 minutes increases mathematical ability by 2%, at what rate should the current be applied and for how long before you can work this out?

Three words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750525)

Google Math Boost

A shocking future (1)

Jetra (2622687) | about a year ago | (#43750531)

Manufacturing, tattoo removal, and eye surgery by lasers so far and now this? I have trouble with Geometry and Trigonometry, but I'd rather have someone teach me instead of paying several grand to have a concentrated beam of energy shot into my brain.

Re:A shocking future (1)

ConaxConax (1886430) | about a year ago | (#43750677)

I look forward to the day when I can install the information directly. As they said in The Matrix "I know kung fu" but to use this in the real world, to be able to just install all mathematical knowledge? How great is that?

Re:A shocking future (1)

Jetra (2622687) | about a year ago | (#43750803)

I'm not too particularly keen on the idea that you have to have an implant in your cerebellum. Seems like so much can go wrong. That is not to say that's a not a great idea, but it'd sure beat the hell out of trying to learn geometry (my brain refuses to learn it).

Re:A shocking future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750815)

You can build one of these at home with off the shelf parts for a few hundred dollars.

http://www.diytdcs.com/ [diytdcs.com]

One more time: arithmetic isn't mathematics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750553)

Being able to do arithmetic doesn't make you good at mathematics; no more so than being able to spell makes you a good writer.

Smart enough to not let them zap you again (5, Funny)

Carewolf (581105) | about a year ago | (#43750565)

Hi, you look stupid, would you mind if I zap your brain?
Uhm...
It will make you smarter! promise.
Uh. Okay.

Ouch
Muhahaha.
I don't feel any smarter...
Would you let me zap you again?
No!!
See! You are smarter already

There are three kinds of people. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#43750585)

Those who can count, and those who can't.

There are 10 kinds of people. Those who think in binary and those who don't.

There are two kinds of people, those who classify people into two kinds of people and those who don't.

Re:There are three kinds of people. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750737)

There are two kinds of people: those who keep posting the binary 10 joke, and those who do *not* implicitly encourage people to grab them by the shirt collar and stuff ski socks down their throats.

It's Leaches all over again. (0)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#43750639)

Fucking Barbarians. Don't know what the fuck is going on. It's like bloodletting all over again. Brain butchery. I wish they'd Frontally Lobotomize themselves. Just overly energize any cybernetic network, simulate or otherwise, see what happens. Fucking moronic I swear.

Most people struggle... (1)

MalachiK (1944624) | about a year ago | (#43750691)

My favorite news story of all time comes from the Manchester Evening News [http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/cool-cash-card-confusion-1009701].

People think I'm making stuff up when I repeat this immortal quote from the story...

"..they fobbed me off with some story that -6 is higher - not lower - than -8 but I'm not having it."

That guy from Real Genius was right!! (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#43750753)

Electrical shock therapy WILL make you smarter!

Real side effects (1)

Imaman (2733027) | about a year ago | (#43750767)

Side effects include slower cognitive functioning.

TFA mentions that the control group learned to learn the new stuff they all learnt, but the brainfried group only learned the new stuff.
They boosted the area of the brain that needed to learn, but in doing so the brainfries never "learned to learn", so in effect they didn't become "smarter", as in adapting their brains to new situations. They just learned new stuff.

It does have really cool applications, like learning a new language quickly or help people recover from brain defects/injuries, but I wouldn't try it in a decade or two.
We know precious little about the brain.

How much could I have saved ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43750825)

Oh well, so much for all the tamper proof outlets I installed in the office...

Small sample size (1)

roland_mai (852416) | about a year ago | (#43750865)

The sample size is truly ridiculously small. I would expect some rigor from people before publishing these results.

Brain-On (1)

TechieRefugee (2105386) | about a year ago | (#43750869)

Brain-On! Apply directly to the cortex! Brain-On! Apply directly to the cortex! Brain-On! Apply directly to the cortex! Brain-On! Available at Walgreens.

No shortcuts necessary (2)

moeinvt (851793) | about a year ago | (#43750875)

If you're one of the 20% of Americans that struggle with basic arithmetic, buy some of those flash cards, open a Jr. High math textbook or take some remedial education courses. STUDYING and PRACTICE improve math ability. No brain zapping required.

The idea that there is some physiological impairment which causes 20 freakin' percent of the population to be handicapped in math ability is ridiculous. Brain zap the bureaucratic idiots in charge of our public school system instead.

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