Brain Boosting with Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (TDCS)

£500 electric shock machine can boost learning and memory - but scientists worry it could be misused | Mail Online

Researchers have found brain stimulation via small electric shocks can boost memory and learning

A machine which stimulates your brain with tiny electric shocks can improve memory, problem-solving and mathematical abilities, psychologists have found.


Dr Roi Cohen Kadosh, a neuroscientist, uses a high-tech system called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to stimulate precise regions of the brain with a tiny buzz of electric current.

When he stimulates the parietal lobes, which are responsible for our skills in reading, writing and numeracy, he can boost mathematical skills.

The electric current triggers the area to produce chemicals that cause brain cells to develop or change. This process — ‘neural plasticity’ — is essential to learning (our brains change structure when we take on new information).

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Let's look at the nature of the new technology. Last week a team of ethicists from Oxford released a paper on the implications of using Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (TDCS) to improve cognition in human beings.  Recent years have seen some encouraging, if preliminary, lab results involving TDCS, a deep brain stimulation technique that uses electrodes placed outside the head to direct tiny painless currents across the brain. The currents are thought to increase neuroplasticity, making it easier for neurons to fire and form the connections that enable learning. There are signs that the technology could improve language acumen, math ability, and even memory. The Oxford paper argues that TDCS has now reached a critical stage where its risks must be carefully considered before the research goes further.

The ethics of brain boosting

Julian says: "At this stage, we need more research to understand better the risks and benefits, in specific populations, in real life. Any regulation should prevent misuse and abuse, but facilitate good research. This kind of technology could be as important as the internet and computing. Those are external cognitive enhancements. This is basic fundamental cognitive enhancement."