Can electrodes help you master math? A recent study says yes

by The Technical Blogs


A recent study indicates that the use of electrodes to stimulate certain brain areas could help those who grapple with mathematical concepts to engage more easily with the subject.

The investigation examining the effects of neurostimulation on learning was organised by a team from the universities of Surrey and Oxford, Loughborough University, and Radboud University in the Netherlands.


The process, known as high-frequency random noise stimulation or tRNS, involves sending a mild electrical current to the brain via two electrodes placed on the scalp.

Professor Roi Cohen Kadosh, a leading cognitive neuroscience professor from the University of Surrey, explained that previously, they had demonstrated an association between a person’s ability to learn and neuronal excitation in their brains.

Their objective in this case was to determine whether their innovative stimulation protocol could enhance, or in other words, excite, this activity and enhance mathematical skills.


With Professor Cohen Kadosh at the helm, the study took a sample size of 102 people and tested their mathematics skills before splitting them into four groups.

These groups included a learning group and an ‘overlearning’ group, the latter practicing sums to a point beyond mastery, and with both groups exposed to the high-frequency electrical noise stimulation.

The two remaining groups were treated with a placebo consisting of stimulation without a significant electric current. The brain activity of all participants was recorded by an electroencephalogram (EEG) at the beginning and end of the stimulation.

The team concluded that individuals with lesser brain excitation during the maths assessment improved significantly after stimulation, yet there was no change among those who performed well initially or in the placebo groups.


As per Professor Cohen Kadosh, this discovery could not only pave the way for a more tailored approach to a person’s learning journey but also shed light on the optimal timing and duration of its application.

Further supporting this argument, Dr Nienke van Bueren from Radboud University noted that the findings suggested individuals with lower brain excitability might be more responsive to electrical noise stimulation, potentially leading to improved learning outcomes.

On the other hand, it was implied that those with high brain excitability might not experience similar improvements in their mathematical abilities through this method.

Published On:

Sep 11, 2023


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