Leonard Cohen of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), along with researchers at Columbia University in New York City and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, US, tested how delivering a mild electrical shock to the primary motor cortex would affect motor skill learning.
Participants in the study were required to learn a new motor skill. In this case each was asked, for five consecutive days, to play a targeting game on a computer monitor by squeezing a joystick.
One group received 20 minutes of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and the other group received only a 30-second 'fake' stimulation.
The study found that the skill of the tDCS group improved significantly more than that of the control group. During the three month follow-up period, the two groups forgot the skill at about the same rate, although the tDCS group continued to perform better because they had learned the skill better by the end of training.
It is hoped that the research will enhance treatment for people with traumatic brain injury, such as strokes, that affect motor skills.
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