Experiment shows random noise stimulation can help people learn better

(ORDO NEWS) — When you work or study, what do you have running in the background? Perhaps a podcast, music, or complete silence?

There is evidence that certain types of music can help or hinder our attempts to learn. But in the future, there may be a better way.

A new study that looks at previous research shows that random, artificial noise can help the brain learn better.

How? Random noise is thought to promote learning by increasing brain plasticity, or the ability to take in new information – essentially helping the brain form new pathways and connections.

In particular, we’re talking about a relatively new technique called transcranial random noise stimulation, or TRNS, and not some carefully crafted relaxation playlist.

TRNS involves placing electrodes on the human scalp and passing weak electrical currents through certain areas of the brain.

“The effect on learning is promising,” says neurologist Onno van der Groen from Edith Cowan University in Australia. “It can speed up the learning process and help people with neurological conditions.”

So, for example, people with learning difficulties can use it to increase the speed of learning. “It has also been tested on people with visual impairments, for example, after a stroke or traumatic brain injury.”

The published article does not contain new research, but summarizes the many previous studies on TRNS. In general, adding brain stimulation during training can improve learning and help with attention after treatment.

Based on previous research, TRNS may have two effects: an “acute” effect, where learning improves while using TRNS, and a long-term, modulating effect, where cognitive performance may improve in the future, even after cessation of TRNS.

Research has shown that TRNS can enhance visual perception, help us absorb new information more efficiently, and improve our ability to concentrate, the researchers report. This is useful in areas where the brain can be damaged or is recovering from damage.

However, the review also notes that TRNC is not a tool that works in all situations; it cannot endlessly align our brains.

In some scenarios and in some age groups, the application of electrical noise does not seem to affect the brain at all.

“There is an example where they tried to improve the math skills of a supermathematician,” says van der Groen. “It didn’t have much of an effect on his academic performance, presumably because he was already the best in that area.”

“But it can be used if you’re learning something new.”

Despite all these experiments, the exact mechanisms at work in the brain during TRNS remain unclear.

It is hypothesized that the noise may help certain neurons to better synchronize or affect the levels of a key neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), although no one knows for sure yet.

It is clear from this review of studies that random noise stimulation can have a beneficial effect on learning, at least in some cases in some people. This means that future research has great potential.

Another advantage of tRNS is that it does not necessarily require a complex laboratory setup to operate. In the future, it will be possible to develop kits that people can use on their own, without outside help, the researchers say.

After all, it might even replace the soundtrack to your work day.

“The concept is relatively simple,” says van der Groen. “It’s like a battery: the current goes from plus to minus, but it also goes through your head.”

“We’re working on a study where we send equipment to people and they use it remotely. So it’s pretty easy to use in that regard.”

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