Brain zapping may be a new type of snake oil. But it might also work—in some instances

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Image: Oxford

According to the advertising hype, you too can enjoy incredible neural and psychological benefits in the comfort of your own home by using a simple electrical device that offers transcranial direct current stimulation(tDCS). For instance, three different models of tDCS devices sold online claim to improve mood, increase creativity, enhance memory, accelerate learning, and combat pain and depression. For the low, low price of between $99 and $189.95, you get a compact handheld device with easy-to-use controls and two electrical leads that end in small sponges.

As is so often the case in science, more work is needed to fully understand any cognitive benefits from tDCS. In 2015, a review of dozens of trials from different research groups, which exposed healthy adults to a tDCS session, showed no conclusive evidence of any effect in four cognitive categories. These are executive function, language, memory, and miscellaneous. Other research, however, suggests that tDCS can improve specific capabilities when correctly applied.

Related article:  Infographic: Understanding autism's origins and prevalence

In the nineteenth century, entrepreneurs falsely sold “snake oil” elixirs as medical cure-alls. Today we need to separate neuro-snake oil from real neural healing and enhancement. We have the tools to do so. We should use them.

Read full, original post: Can Zapping Your Brain Really Make You Smarter?

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