Following up on Vincent Clark at UNM, working on the IARPA-funded SHARP project.
The current researchers use has a few effects including increasing chemicals in the brain that help humans encode memories. As those chemicals increase, people find it easier to learn new things. Another effect involves the applied current, which seems to alter attention so that people can attend to what they’re doing better; they can pay more attention to the task at hand.
When the researchers gave people tDCS, their score went up faster. An examination of the difference before and after shows a score that goes up about 14 percent without tDCS. With full tDCS, the score goes up about 27 percent. If they wait an hour and test again, and compare no tDCS with full tDCS, it goes up even more.
But that skepticism has only inspired Pavel and his colleagues, including associate professor of electrical and computer engineering Deniz Erdogmus, to work even harder on a project aimed at exploring their innovative research. They recently received a contract to study the phenomenon from the Strengthening Human Adaptive Reasoning and Problem-solving Program, known as SHARP. The program is sponsored by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, a government agency that invests in high-risk, high-payoff research.
Researchers at Oxford University, who are part of the same SHARP team as Erdogmus and Pavel, previously demonstrated that applying transcranial current stimulation helps children perform better on mathematics problems. “The question is how well does this method work for improving fluid intelligence,” said Pavel, who holds joint appointments in the College of Computer and Information Science and the Bouvé College of Health Science.