Cannot study for an upcoming exam and wished there was a magic to help to pass? Well, your wish just came true in the form of an electric thinking cap that speeds up learning and can give you an almost super human learning power. So you know what we learn from, don’t you? Mistakes. We learn from mistakes and scientists have come up with a method that will help you learn from your mistakes faster than usual and the next time you will do the task without making the same mistake again.
The medial frontal cortex of the brain is believed to be responsible for instinctive response when we make a mistake. Previous studies have shown that a spike of negative voltage originates from medial frontal cortex, milliseconds after the person makes a mistake but they never answer why. Researchers Robert Reinhart and Geoffrey Woodman from Vanderbilt University tested this observation that this activity influences learning by allowing the brain to learn from our mistakes.
They carried out experiment to test:
- If it’s possible to control the brain’s electrophysiological response to mistakes.
- If its effect could be intentionally regulated up and down depending on the direction of an electrical current applied to it.
- And how long the result would last and whether the results could be applied to other tasks.
The bi-directionality regulated the up and down, depending on the direction of current given. The bi-directionality had been observed in other animals but not humans.
Researchers applied 20 min of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) by using an elastic headband that had two electrodes conducted by saline soaked sponges to the cheek and the crown of the head. In the process, a mild direct current travels from the anodal electrode through skin, muscle, bones, brain and out through the cathodal electrode. It does not cause any discomfort but a few seconds of tingling or itching. Three sessions were carried out randomly on the subjects who were given either anodal current that traveled from electrode on the head to the cheek or cathodal in which current traveled from cheek to head or a sham condition in which the tingling sensation was replicated under the electrodes that did not affect brain. The subjects were able to tell difference.
After 20 min of stimulation, subjects were given a learning task in which they had to figure out which buttons on the game controller correspond to specific colors displayed on a monitor. Occasionally, a signal was displayed for the subject not to respond and they had less than a second to respond, all of which made the task quite difficult to provide more opportunities to make mistakes and thus for medial frontal cortex to respond.
The moment subjects made mistakes, their electrical brain activity was measured. This helped the researchers understand how brain activity changed on electrical stimulation.
When anodal current was applied, the spike of negative voltage from medial frontal cortex was twice larger. This was reflected in their behavior because they made few mistakes and learned from them more quickly as compared to sham stimulation. When cathodal current was given , the result was totally opposite as the spike was quite smaller and the subjects made more errors and took longer to learn the task. It was found that the effects of a 20 min stimulation did transfer to other tasks and lasted about 5 hours.
It has greater capacity to change learning skill than any pharmaceutical products or psychological therapies ever invented. It cannot only make you less vulnerable to making mistakes while performing a task but also more adaptable to new and changing situations and makes you take more cautions.
This awesome invention can help you get through exam, any business obstacle or even if you want to invent something while wearing it, you can invent which you cannot do under normal circumstances with average spike of voltage.
[Source: Vanderbilt University]