Sci got an email the other day. Ok, I get lots of emails, but this one asked a cool question, which is always nice. All it asked for was an opinion on an article in Scientific American: "Get Better at Math By Disrupting your Brain". Sci looked. Was intrigued. Read the actual paper...and found the SciAm coverage of it somewhat misleading (or at least, really confusing).
Basically, the article at SciAm states that
The goal of the study was to assess whether modifying activity in the parietal lobes affected the acquisition of number competence.
If the brain functions by optimizing behavior, it might be possible to worsen numerical competence by disrupting parietal function, but it should not be possible to enhance it that way. However, that is precisely what Cohen Kadosh's team found. Remarkably, this improvement was still present six months after the training.
The problem isn't so much in the total coverage itself. The problem is in the word "disruption". You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
tr.v. dis·rupt·ed, dis·rupt·ing, dis·rupts
1. To throw into confusion or disorder: Protesters disrupted the candidate's speech.
2. To interrupt or impede the progress, movement, or procedure of: Our efforts in the garden were disrupted by an early frost.
3. To break or burst; rupture.
So you'd THINK, based on the SciAm article and the definition of the word "disruption", that this paper used magnets to disrupt me, by which they mean to impede or interrupt, implying a negative effect on brain activity in the parietal lobe, and this paradoxically (as the SciAm article notes) made people better at math.
That would be cool. If that was what the paper actually FOUND. It wasn't.
And so, I'm going to cover the paper for you all. Let's clear this up.
Kadosh et al. "Modulating Neuronal Activity Produces Specific and Long-Lasting Changes in Numerical Competence" Current Biology, 2010.
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