Imagine being able to learn a foreign language almost instantaneously.
That could soon be a reality, now that scientists have developed a device straight out of science fiction that they say promotes instant learning.
Researchers from HRL Laboratories in California have created a brain stimulation system that feeds knowledge directly into a person’s brain and teaches them new skills in a shorter amount of time.
If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s basically the plot of The Matrix, wherein protagonist Neo learns kung fu after the martial art is uploaded directly to his brain.
In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers detail how they studied the electric signals in the brain of a trained pilot and then fed that data into amateur subjects who were learning to fly a plane in a flight simulator.
The researchers found that those who received brain stimulation via electrode-embedded head caps improved their piloting skills and learned the task 33 percent better than a placebo group.
“Our system is one of the first of its kind... it sounds kind of sci-fi, but there's large scientific basis for the development of our system,” said Dr. Matthew Phillips. "The specific task we were looking at was piloting an aircraft, which requires a synergy of both cognitive and motor performance.”
Phillips said that when you learn something new, connections in your brain are made and strengthened in a process called neuro-plasticity. Certain functions of the brain, such as speech and memory, are located in “very specific regions, about the size of your pinky.”
“What our system does is it actually targets those changes to specific regions of the brain as you learn,” said Phillips, adding that this kind of system could one day be used for tasks like learning how to drive, studying for examinations or learning a new language.
“The method itself is actually quite old. In fact, the ancient Egyptians 4000 years ago used electric fish to stimulate and reduce pain,” said Phillips.
“Even Ben Franklin applied currents to his head, but the rigorous, scientific investigation of these methods started in the early 2000s and we're building on that research to target and personalise a stimulation in the most effective way possible.
“Your brain is going to be very different to my brain when we perform a task. What we found is … brain stimulation seems to be particularly effective at actually improving learning.”
h/t The Telegraph