Promising new research indicates that a simple, inexpensive technology called tDCS may improve executive function (the ability to quickly shift focus), learning, and even treat depression. The New York Times reports that:
Scientific papers published in leading peer-reviewed journals since 2005 have shown that tDCS can improve the speed or accuracy with which people perform this attention-switching task. Other studies have found it can improve everything from working memory to long-term memory, math calculations, reading ability, solving difficult problems, piano playing, complex verbal thought, planning, visual memory, the ability to categorize, the capacity for insight, post-stroke paralysis and aphasia, chronic pain and even depression. Effects have been shown to last for weeks or months.
tDCS involves stimulation of areas of the brain with a low level electrical current for a period of minutes; and while some scientists are skeptical that such a simple and inexpensive intervention could produce these results, there is a growing body of research to indicate that this may be an exception to the “too good to be true” rule.
Obviously we have no data on the long-term effects of this technology. It’s possible that, over time, the effect may lessen or the brain may even become used to the additional stimulation and require it the way addicts come to require a dose in order to function normally.
But if the research bears out in further clinical studies, it’s possible that we could see tDCS available as consumer technology within the next decade.
Would you use it?