[LINK] Learning enhancement using "transcranial direct current stimulation"

post by Alex_Altair · 2012-01-26T16:18:55.714Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 19 comments

Article here;


Recent research in Oxford and elsewhere has shown that one type of brain stimulation in particular, called transcranial direct current stimulation or TDCS, can be used to improve language and maths abilities, memory, problem solving, attention, even movement.

Critically, this is not just helping to restore function in those with impaired abilities. TDCS can be used to enhance healthy people’s mental capacities. Indeed, most of the research so far has been carried out in healthy adults.

The article goes on to discuss the ethics of the technique.


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comment by [deleted] · 2012-01-26T18:01:19.788Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Slightly better version here: http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/science_blog/brainboosting.html (includes the link to the actual paper and some others at the end).

One of the concerns they raise is that the required equipment is cheap to obtain or assemble yourself which could lead to unqualified people engaging in potentially dangerous self-experimentation. Soo, any LessWrongers willing to give it a try? ;)

Replies from: Alex_Altair
comment by Alex_Altair · 2012-01-26T21:37:22.500Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks! I changed it to that one.

comment by Incorrect · 2012-01-26T22:44:22.537Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's a subreddit for this:


comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-01-27T06:24:47.032Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Woohoo. Wire me up! Where are some plans for these contraptions?

Replies from: Morendil, whpearson
comment by Morendil · 2012-03-09T18:34:24.473Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Kits allegedly coming soon. (via)

comment by whpearson · 2012-01-31T22:03:45.460Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here looks like a good place.


I'm going to be experimenting with them at the london hackspace so anyone from london is interested, give me a shout,

Replies from: staticIP, buybuydandavis
comment by staticIP · 2012-04-25T12:22:17.580Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That ones actually a bit dangerous. The current regulator is rated to go that low, so it's going to be unreliable. In this instance unreliable means brain lesions.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-02-01T00:38:59.450Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I got excited for a bit, but


triggered a Google malware alarm in Chrome.

Replies from: whpearson
comment by whpearson · 2012-02-05T10:06:35.685Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Odd. I'm pretty sure the guys there aren't malicious. I've met a couple of them. So I'd guess they got attacked at some point and got black listed.

Replies from: buybuydandavis
comment by buybuydandavis · 2012-02-05T19:05:35.592Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Looks like they've cleared that out. I tried it again, and this time, no malware warning. Either that, or I'm already hacked.

comment by CronoDAS · 2012-01-27T05:01:33.115Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So how does this square with Algernon's Law? (That any simple change that enhances intelligence must be a net evolutionary disadvantage.)

For example, if the treatment makes it easier for a neuron to fire, it also increases the chances of a neuron firing when it's not "supposed" to (because of random noise or whatever).

Replies from: saturn, Alex_Altair, NancyLebovitz
comment by saturn · 2012-01-27T11:59:34.413Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Evolution hasn't really caught on to the fact that calories are really easy to obtain now, so there's probably some low-hanging fruit available by subverting the brain's energy-conserving mechanisms. (I don't know whether TDCS is doing that.)

Replies from: Anubhav
comment by Anubhav · 2012-01-28T08:07:49.363Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Evolution hasn't really caught on to the fact that calories are really easy to obtain now, so there's probably some low-hanging fruit available by subverting the brain's energy-conserving mechanisms.


comment by Alex_Altair · 2012-02-23T02:50:53.713Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also a macroscopic electric field might not be "simple" for evolution.

Replies from: Rhwawn
comment by Rhwawn · 2012-03-10T04:48:40.413Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The usual explanations for tDCS relating to the NMDA receptors would be simple for evolution, though.

Replies from: Alex_Altair
comment by Alex_Altair · 2012-03-10T07:19:06.349Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting. Where have you seen that explanation?

Replies from: Rhwawn
comment by Rhwawn · 2012-03-10T20:09:17.638Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The 2012 Clark paper on tDCS doubling learning to detect concealed snipers/bombs/objects.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2012-02-22T23:09:14.292Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not convinced that Algernon's Law is true in general. It might apply to improving intelligence above the currently available range, but it shouldn't apply to raising intelligence within the existing range.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2012-01-27T17:13:27.838Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The example of math learning seemed pretty contrived to me. Here is an 8 year old article on transcranial stimulation for drawing. If nothing else, look at the drawings made by the journalist.

The Sydney work is about magnetic stimulation, while the Oxford work is electrical, but the effects sound pretty similar. Electrical techniques are cheaper, but harder to control (2d vs 3d). The drawing article appeared in the New York Times Magazine, but the current web page lacks the drawings.