London: Ever wished you could have thought more laterally to solve a problem? Well, you will now be able to do so by using a new mind-boosting technology -- zapping your brain with mild electricity.
Researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia have shown that a blast of gentle electrical current to the brain helps one discard preconceptions and think outside the box.
Donning such a "thinking cap", the scientists said, could help us solve infuriating problems from balancing budgets at work to cracking the final crossword clue, the Daily Mail reported.
For their study, the researchers recruited 60 university students happy to have a gentle electrical current passed through their brain in the name of science.
The young men and women were shown a series sums in which the numbers were replaced by Roman numerals made out of matchsticks. Each sum contained a mistake that could be corrected by moving just one matchstick.
After solving numerous problems containing the same sort of error, a weak current was passed through a region -- called the anterior temporal lobe -- which lies just in front of the ears.
The students were then given another set of matchstick problems to solve, this time with a different type of error.
Those who were zapped on the right side of the head did three times as well at solving the problems as the others, the researchers reported in the journal Plops ONE.
This is likely because the electricity boosted the activity of brain cells key to insight. In addition, the activity of the cells on the left side of the brain that we usually use to quickly process the familiar may have been
inhibited, the researchers said.
Professor Allan Synder said: "Our perceptions, memory, and decisions are based on filtered information. We view the world top down though concepts or mental templates which are built up from our past experience.
"These concepts are crucially important to our survival. They enable us to make rapid predictions about what is most likely, based on only partial information.
"But, this strategy leaves us susceptible to certain kinds of perceptual and cognitive errors -- from visual illusions to false memories and prejudice -- and it makes us inclined to connect the dots in ways that are familiar, rather
than to explore novel interpretations.
"Our findings are consistent with the theory that inhibition to the left anterior temporal lobe can lead to a cognitive style that is less influenced by mental templates and that the right anterior temporal lobe may be associated
with insight or novel meaning."
The technique, known as transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS), could help with problems as varied as dyscalculia, or number blindness, stroke-related visual damage and compulsive gambling, the researchers said.
However, they warned that there is also potential to abuse it to zap people s brainpower.