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Report: Researchers Develop ‘Thinking Cap’

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Researchers say a spike of negative electricity in the brain helps us to learn from our mistakes. (Getty Images)

Researchers say a spike of negative electricity in the brain helps us to learn from our mistakes. (Getty Images)

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NASHVILLE (CBS Charlotte) – Elementary school teachers around the country may finally be able to get their students to literally put on a “thinking cap.”

Scientists have developed a head covering that harnesses the negative electricity that spikes in our brains when we make a mistake, reports CNet.

That spike can be called the “oops” reaction.

Vanderbilt University psychologists Robert Reinhart and Geoffrey Woodman had a notion that those negative spikes might play a role in learning by allowing the brain to learn from mistakes.

“That’s what we set out to test: what is the actual function of these brainwaves?” said Reinhart. “We wanted to reach into your brain and causally control your inner critic.”

The “cap” is wired with sensors and electrodes to measure brain waves and to stimulate the brain.

They participants were divided into three groups, one which received an electric current from the crown of the head to the cheek (anodal), a second which which received the current from the cheek to the crown (cathodal) and a control group which was given a tingling sensation without applying the current.

Subjects were asked to perform a complex task with a high learning curve, allowing for plenty of opportunities to make mistakes.

They had to use trial and error to figure out how to match buttons on a game controller to colors displayed on a computer monitor.

The participants had less than a second to respond correctly and researchers threw a few wrenches into the test with signals showing the person was not supposed to respond.

The researchers found those whe received the anodal current (crown to cheek) had negative voltage spikes that were almost twice as large as normal, and even larger for about 75 percent of the subjects. They learned more quickly and made fewer mistakes during the test.

The people who got the cathodal current (cheek to crown) showed the opposite effect, smaller spikes and more mistakes.

The study is published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

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