Many people are excited about the prospect of using electricity or magnetism to “hack” the human brain. While the science is pretty new, the notion of targeting the brain with electrical stimulation or a magnetic field in the hopes of boosting cognitive performance — or ameliorating a deficit — has led to both mainstream research interest and some weird internet subculture of DIY brain-zappers. Among other intriguing early findings in this field, researchers have found that if you stimulate certain parts of someone’s brain with so-called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), it seems to offer at least a short-term boost to their language abilities.
Now, a new study in the Journal of Neuroscience helps point the way toward a future in which so-called “high-definition” tDCS could help people overcome learning deficits induced by brain trauma or other misfortune.
HD-tDCS, the paper’s authors note, “allows for the application of relatively focal current stimulation [on one particular area of the brain] by using a circumscribed array of scalp electrodes,” allowing researchers to apply a current to a much more specific part of the brain than “traditional” tDCS. (For short, I’ll refer to the researchers’ technique as “tDCS” throughout the article, but when I do I’m referring to their high-def flavor of it.)