Study leader Dr. Roi Cohen Kadosh of the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, said the brain stimulation technique called transcranial random noise stimulation is painless, non-invasive and relatively cheap.
Kadosh and colleagues asked 51 Oxford students to perform two arithmetic tasks over a five-day period that tested their ability to perform calculations in their head and learn arithmetic facts by heart. Twenty-five study participants took part in the main experiment and 26 in a control experiment.
"We found that with just five days of transcranial random noise stimulation-accompanied cognitive training, we were able to bring about long-lasting improvements in cognitive and brain functions," Kadosh said in a statement.
Performance on both the calculation and rote learning tasks improved over the 5 days. The improvements in performing mental calculations lasted for six months after the training, the study said.
"Our neuroimaging results suggested that transcranial random noise stimulation increases the efficiency with which stimulated brain areas use their supplies of oxygen and nutrients," Kadosh said.
The findings were published in the journal Current Biology.