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We have always thought that those who are good at math have superior brain power than those who do not. There is a growing body of research in the field of cognitive neuroscience that reveals just how wrong we are to assume this.
Scientists have now found that being superior at math does not necessarily mean you are smarter with all subjects. The Paradoxical Brain, a new book that is edited by Narinder Kapur, discusses several research reports that have found that those who are better at math are not smarter with other things. These researchers have found a way to improve someone’s ability at math and increase that person’s ‘number competence’.
For instance, if the brain heightens behavior, disruption of this activity of a normal brain should lead to harm of that function, not enhancement. Now, with Noninvasive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (NTMS) or Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (TDCS), the brain can actually have enhanced learning. Both of these terms refer to the use of devices placed on the scalp to stimulate the brain activity through paradoxical behavior advancement.

A recent study, published in Current Biology and led by Roi  Cohen Kadosh, reported that noninvasive brain stimulation actually promotes better “number sense”. Nearly one in every five people has a developmental disability that makes it difficult to process and understand numbers. Others have this, too, but it occurs as the result of some sort of brain injury or degenerative disease. These researchers maintain that noninvasive brain stimulation is a valuable therapeutic procedure for patients with a numerical disabilities. They also conclude that more research is needed before this data is credible, but their work is a start in the right direction.

Over a period of six days, 15 adults were asked to learn the association between nine symbols without knowing the quantity that was assigned to each of them. The learning phase lasted for around two hours each day and for the first twenty minutes each day these people had TDCS of their parietal areas on the scalp. The parietal lobes of the brain are the regions that are responsible for processing magnitudes and representation of numbers. Toward the end of this experiment, these subjects had a newly created “number sense”. This means that they had better reasoning when it comes to numbers and overall better acquisition of number competency. Surprisingly, this enhancement was still present six months after the training ended.

Many of our complex brain functions rely on active interactions between two separate brain regions. This is a concept called “functional connectivity networks”. This is where circulated brain regions interact to perform neural functions. Irregularities of these interactions play a crucial role in diseases like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. There is an aptitude of the brain and its many networks to adapt and accept this disruption, and therefore, making the person perform at a higher level over time. 

Research supports the fact that the effects of TDCS depend on the connections between the regions targeted and the rest of the brain. The procedure will change the local brain activity, therefore chanting the activity in distant structures. The scientists believe that it is now possible to use this procedure to explore “paradoxical facilitation”, a disruption that leads to improved performance. Kadosh’s team maintains that it should be used cautiously for neurological and psychiatric reasons.

There are many studies out there that confirm that it is possible to promote motor learning in normal individuals by using brain stimulation with practice. These approaches have brought new hope in the promotion of recovery after a stroke or other similar event. Additionally, there are studies of this technique that show people with poor attention spans can benefit from this practice, as well.