What does rating how hot someone is have in common with the next generation of treatments for neurological diseases? More than you think, according to a recent study. Researchers have proven that using a small electric current passed through the skin and skull to the deep brain can alter the way the brain works, opening the doors up to treatments that don't require drugs or invasive surgery.

Researchers from the California Institute of Technology used a widely known noninvasive technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to stimulate a part of the brain previously thought inaccessible to small voltage electric pulses passed through the head. To test if the technology could work, scientists decided to play a game of 'hot or not' with study participants.

Nineteen volunteers were fitted with a head piece, which would deliver two milliamps of electricity to a deep part of the brain called the ventral midbrain. This part of the brain is associated with how we process reward, addiction, motivation, and addiction. When presented with sets of Caucasian male and female faces with neutral facial expressions, the study participants rated the faces as far more attractive after they had their brains stimulated. A control group received a fake electric signal, which only made their scalp tingle.

The experiment was proof of a concept that stimulating deep and inaccessible parts of the brain may be done without the need for pharmaceuticals or invasive implants that cause "deep brain stimulation." Such a technique would be helpful in those suffering from diseases such as schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease, where some form of deep brain stimulation is used to alleviate some symptoms of the disease.

Additionally, the process may also be used in the future for "brain hacking." People currently rely on intensive practice or drugs such as adderall to enhance their cognitive abilities. With this process, however, people could enhance the functioning of parts of their brain, without risking surgery and highly addictive drugs.

Source: Chib V, Yu K, Takahashi H, Shimoj S. Noninvasive remote activation of the ventral midbrain by transcranial direct current stimulation of prefrontal cortex. Translational Psychiatry. 2013.