We've all heard the term "put on your thinking cap" when you need an idea or two. Here's one that uses the concept to supercharge your brain's learning ability. Developed by a Vanderbilt team, it could make you more prone to mistakes and confusion with a flip of a switch.

Part of the brain that is responsible for recognizing mistakes is at the medial-frontal cortex, which emits a spike of negative voltage the moment we recognize we've been doing something wrongly. Psychologists Robert Reinhart and Geoffrey Woodman theorized that they could use these brainwaves to let us learn from mistakes. They also figured a way to use them to mess with our heads.

The headband seen uses one electrode at the top of the wearer's head and another at the cheek, and the researchers will send a tiny current through a subject's brain for 20 minutes. Wearers were then asked to perform a learning task while the team watched the electrical activity of the brains.

Top to bottom current showed a larger brainwave response when they recognized a mistake. They made fewer errors and learned the task more quickly too. But subjects with bottom to top brain zapping showed the opposite effect, and made more errors and had a longer learning process.

The research could answer some of our questions in looking for treatments for conditions like ADHD and schizophrenia. [Vanderbilt University]