Brain Stimulation Could Make the Impossible Possible
Humans have long been fascinated by the idea of cognitive enhancement, and we use everything from specialized study techniques to good, old-fashioned coffee in order to make ourselves smarter. A new study from the University of Sydney points to another tantalizing possibility: non-invasive brain stimulation can apparently improve the ability to solve complex problems.
Researchers asked study participants to solve the famous "nine dots puzzle," which is known for being particularly difficult, even impossible, for most people. After giving the participants ten minutes of a non-invasive brain stimulation where the left anterior temporal lobe of the brain was inhibited while simultaneously the right anterior temporal lobe was excited, over forty percent solved the puzzle.
Said Allan Snyder of the University of Sydney:
"The results suggest non-invasive brain stimulation could assist people in solving tasks that appear straightforward but are inherently difficult."
Much of the brain's function is unconscious and automatic, below the level of awareness. We evolved our current cognitive capacity in order to solve certain types of problems, but when confronted with troublesome problems that don't fit that paradigm, we often run into a brick wall. By providing the brain with novel stimulation, we can perhaps help it to escape some of its automatic programming, and even break outside the box.