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This Electric Thinking Cap Boosts Learning and Decision Making

Up until a few weeks ago, the proverbial thinking cap only had a figurative meaning, but apparently science has finally managed to catch up. A couple of American scientists have created a real thinking cap that could help people learn and make decisions quicker.

This unique device is the brainchild of psychology professor Geoff Woodman and Ph.D. student Robert Reinhart of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and works by sending very low electrical shocks to the brain when worn. The duo claim that the electrical stimulation of certain parts of the brain could make the wearer learn new skills and make better decisions.

Indeed, studies performed on the human brain have revealed that negative voltage spikes occur in the medial-frontal cortex of the brain, milliseconds before we make a mistake. Woodman and Reinhart figured that a part of the brain can influence learning and decision making, helping us avoid the same mistakes later.

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The two decided to test if it was possible to control the brain’s electrophysiological response to mistakes. They also wanted to see if this response could be improved or decreased based on the direction of electrical current applied. So they set about creating a cap by using an elastic headband and a bunch of electrodes that are applied to the cheek and crown of the head.

Through these electrodes, a transcranial direct current stimulation is applied for 20 minutes. Later, an EEG cap is wrapped around the head to capture readings of the brain while subjects perform learning activities. Initial trials showed that 75% of the over five dozen people tested displayed a remarkable improvement in learning and decision making when wearing the thinking cap!

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“We did find that the effects lasted about five hours,” Woodman said. He also suggested that the cap could be very useful for a commercial pilot or a surgeon, and it could help people with psychiatric disorders.

The team is currently researching the long-term effects of wearing the cap, so in case you were hoping to get one to help you study for a big test, you’re going to have to wait a while longer.

 

Source: Live Science

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