While many students looking to study or get some work done covet the “quiet section” in libraries, new research conducted by Edith Cowan University (ECU) has found that some “noise” may actually unlock hidden learning potential.
The researchers analyzed the effect of transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS)– which is not exactly “noise” in the auditory sense; instead, tRNS works by attaching electrodes to the head and allowing weak currents to travel through certain parts of the brain.
And according to the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Onno van de Groen, tRNS was found to help form new synaptic connections and pathways– a cornerstone of learning known as neuroplasticity.
“If you learn something, there have to be neuroplastic changes in your brain which allow you to learn this information. And this is a tool to enhance this neuroplasticity,” Dr. van de Groen said.
Additionally, the researchers found that tRNS has two distinct effects on the human brain. First is the “acute” effect, in which people perform better while actively undergoing tRNS.
The second effect was modulating, meaning that participants saw lasting effects even after tRNS was over.
And this lasting impact was even enough to allow tRNS participants to outperform control group participants.
“If you do ten sessions of a visual perception task with the tRNS and then come back and do it again without, you will find you perform better than the control group who has not used it,” Dr. van de Groen underscored.
In turn, this method of speeding up learning has numerous potential applications. Neurotypical people may be able to surpass their intellectual “peak,” and, most notably, tRNS has the potential to speed up the rate of learning among people with neurological conditions.