By Chris Capps 2/8/11
The thinking caps of tomorrow may actually use electrical impulses to improve memory and learning, but one scientist at the University of Oxford suggests puzzle solving abilities may be improved by actually reducing memory and learning. The study saw subjects solving puzzles previously only 20% of respondents did and hopes to pave the way for a future in "thinking caps." But other scientists are not so sure the electric signals will provide more than an anecdotal improvement in puzzle solving ability.
The strange helmets were designed to improve the ability for test subjects to perform a specific experiment. In the experiment the subjects are asked to look at a series of puzzles and then move a single match to make the puzzles make sense. After the first study the test subjects scored a surprisingly low amount. After having moved the matches making up a series of Roman Numerals in the numbers to solve the puzzles several times, researchers found they were less likely to move the same matches in the plus, minus, and equals signs. But then he found when a helmet was applied that stimulated the two hemispheres of the brain and inhibited memories, the test subjects actually performed better than before. Is it possible that after all these years only a few scientists have found a method by which some of our previous understanding of IQ could be forgotten? If the state of the mind is affected so directly by environment and state of mind, is it possible a device could be made that actually simulates this type of environment for test subjects? As the findings conclude, it appears we are one step closer to finding where we stand in relation to the process of memory and problem solving.
But there's a surprising development too. If a device used in the experiment can actually facilitate better problem solving, then wouldn't it be useful for the rest of humanity? After all, when test subjects put on this device they were far more likely to guess the trick question's answer correctly. Research on this part is still inconclusive. Some are suggesting the important part of this, according to Roi Cohen who headed the experiment is that the device could be used to improve the learning abilities of people with brain damage. By improving their own lives, eventually we may find applications for the rest of humanity as well, but the main focus of the research remains on improving their lives.
There have been a number of experiments designed to improve brain function and learning throughout time using external devices, and many have met with a surprising level of success. But will there ever be a thinking cap designed to improve the intelligence of whoever puts it on? If such a cap were ever designed in a way that could be mass produced, it would no doubt change much we know about the way the world works. But as it stands, with all the research that has been conducted on the brain it is still not the most effective means of improving intelligence available.