A little brain buzz might go a long way

Researchers at the National Institute for Neurological Disorders in Bethesda, MD are studying the effects of a charging the brain using a 9V battery to improve learning. The MIT Technology Review reports that previous research has found that a steady electrical current can improve motor function, verbal fluency and even language learning.

In Bethesda, neuroscientist Eric Wassermann is using an approach called “transcranial direct current stimulation,” which employs a 9V battery and some damp sponges.

From the Review: “The device is simple: a nine-volt battery that’s been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for delivering drugs across the skin is connected to large flat sponges that are moistened and then applied to the head. It delivers a gentle 2 to 2.5 milliamps of current spread over a 20 to 50 square millimeter area of the scalp for up to 15 minutes. Little of that current actually reaches the brain–about half is shunted away from the target area, and the other half quickly dissipates as it gets farther from the scalp.”

The technology, around for years now, was used in the 1960s to treat patients with psychiatric disorders. Unlike electro shock therapy, people undergoing the 9V brain charge only feel a “slight tingle.”