Since then, this is the dream of many people. Particularly, those who don´t enjoy the process of learning something new, like a second language but need to.
While this is still a dream, science is getting closer.
Scientists from HRL Laboratories, LLC, Malibu, California are developing a way to amplify learning. In the experiment, they tracked the brain data of six military and commercial trained pilots. Through transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), they inserted the same pattern in a novice while s/he learned how to pilot in a flight simulator.
“We measured the brain activity patterns of six commercial and military pilots, and then transmitted these patterns into novice subjects as they learned to pilot an airplane in a realistic flight simulator,” lead researcher Matthew Phillips said in a press release,
With this strategy, as published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience journal, the pilot learned 33% faster than the group that didn’t use this strategy.
According to Dr. Matthew Philips, in order to choose which task they would use for the experiment, they took one that required synergy between cognitive and motor performance
BRAIN STIMULATION VIA ELECTRICITY
As he explains, the brain makes and strengths connections, also known as neuroplasticity, between the areas related to the tasks needed while learning. The systems developed stimulate these areas, stimulating the connections to be made.
Besides this application in the learning process, this method already shows results in helping recovering patients from strokes. In that case, the neuroplasticity is essential to recover when hands or arms are affected. As we already discussed, tDCS is a way of stimulating this process.
A video on Enhanced training through neurostimulation produced by HRL laboratories
In that case, they associated the tDCS with verbal cues. Other great advantage of the study is to treat creativity not as a static state, but as a dynamic one. In that approach, it is believed that enhancing creativity is possible. However, only some success has been achieved in this sense.
tCDS can have its role too in depression treatment. Although improvement in some cases has been reported, it is not a widely accepted method, with many specialists opposing it.
Historically, the Egyptians, for example, used it to reduce pain. To have the electricity they used an electric fish. Perhaps Benjamin Franklin was also into using electricity to cure pain.
SO NEAR, YET SO FAR
However, it’s not all rosy. There are a couple of issues plaguing this piece of research. One, specialists feel that the journal the team chose to publish has a shoddy history. They have been forced to publicly retract some bogus studies. Moreover, the scientific fraternity has severely criticized their ‘pay to publish’ model.
The second problem is that the team seems to be under a lot of pressure to make this device work. As Dvorsky explains, HRL Laboratories conducts research and development for the General Motors and the Boeing Company, and have already filed a patent for their ‘brain-boosting’ interface. The probable prospect of financial gain could have clouded their perception of the results. May be a collapse in confidence.
Reconfiguring the physical nature of neurons to encode for specific memories or engraving will require far more than just targeted beams of electric currents.
Last month, for example, researchers used a combination of genetics and light delivered by fiber optic cables to alter the memories of mice. The ability to “upload” an entire skill set, whether it be piloting an airplane or learning kung-fu, may eventually happen.
But it’s not something we’ll see for quite some time.