Roi Cohen Kadosh of the experimental psychology department of Oxford University has found that a relatively new brain-stimulation technique called transcranial electrical simulation may help people learn and improve their understanding of math concepts.

To test this, Kadosh is sending low-dose electric currents through the brains of adults and children as young as 8. In order to reduce the risks of side effects, the current is very mild, which has opened up the possibilities of using it as a general cognitive enhancer.

​The idea of using electric currents to treat the brain of various diseases has long had a place in history, but always with concerns about safety and side effects. A notable example of this was electroshock therapy, developed in 1938 to treat severe mental illness, often portrayed as a medieval treatment that did more harm than good.

​Luckily, science has advanced since the 1930s, and electroconvulsive therapy is considered appropriate for use against types of major depression and other severe mood states. A number of new brain stimulation techniques have been developed as well, including deep brain stimulation which acts like a pacemaker for the brain.

Transcranial electrical stimulation, Dr. Cohen Kadosh’s research, is one of the newest brain stimulation techniques. He hopes that the method will continue to show promise and be the new drug of the 21st century, especially as a therapy for dyscalculia.

​As the research continues, Dr. Cohen Kadosh has found that his technique appears helpful in improving learning speed on various math tasks in adults who don’t have trouble in math. Now he’s found preliminary evidence that it helps those who struggle in math, too.

The technique appears to work by lowering the threshold neurons need to reach before they can fire and transfer information, which facilitates learning. More study is needed to determine whether this method will indeed be effective.

​To read more about this study, visit The Wall Street Journal or BBC.