Delivering low-power electrical current through the skull has been shown to speed up the learning of motor skills and scientists believe the technology could help people wanting to become better athletes or musicians, enhance academic learning or aid the recovery of stroke patients
Professor Heidi Johansen-Berg, from Oxford University, led research which involved volunteers pressing buttons in specific sequences, similar to playing a piano.
As they carried out the task, a weak current of around 1-2 milliamps was passed through two rubber electrode pads placed on opposite sides of the head.
The current flowed through the motor cortex of the brain, exciting neurons and speeding up the creation of new nerve connections. Undergoing the stimulation enabled the volunteers to learn the button-press sequences more quickly.
The effect on neurons mirrored that seen in previous brain-training research, said Prof Johansen-Berg. Brain scan studies showed that squeezing a control stick to play a computer game aided the repair of damaged nerve pathways in stroke patients.