That time you stuck a fork in the electric socket as a youngster? Not only were you learning a valuable lesson about pain, but you may have also been firing up your brain, according to new research. The BBC reports on research from the University Of Oxford that studied how the structure of the brain changes in both healthy adults and stroke victims. What they found was that applying a small current to specific parts of the brain -- a process called non-invasive electric brain stimulation -- helped stroke patients recover lost motor skills. When the same currents were applied to adults with healthy brains, it was found that the speed with which they picked up new motor skills -- learning, in other words -- improved.
This doesn't mean that you should repeat the experiment with the socket and the fork in order to become the next Einstein however, unless you're already on the way. The research indicates that while it aids in the speed at which you learn, it doesn't actually seem to aid in the improvement of skills. The BBC quotes the head of the research team, Prof Heidi Johansen-Berg, on the nature of what benefit you get:
While the stimulation didn't improve the participant's best performance, the speed at which they reached their best was significantly increased"