October 13, 2016
Have you ever wished that you could upload information to your brain? Perhaps you imagined inserting a data-filled USB key into an outlet on your wrist…and then poof! Suddenly, you’d have all the information you needed within seconds.
Well, you could be in luck! Scientists have developed a method of amplifying learning through the use of an electric scalp-cap. In other words, experts have found a way to ‘upload’ information to your brain through neurostimulation. Before you get too excited, you should know that this is just on a very small-scale. It’s not like the scene in The Matrix, where Neo has a set of Kung-Fu skills uploaded directly into his brain.
The revelation started in the HRL Information and System Sciences Laboratory in California. In the study, research scientists studied electrical signals in the brain of trained, experienced pilots. They wanted to see what their brains looked like when they performed a very specific training task. Their hopes were to modulate the brains of novice pilots who had never done this task before; to make novices’ brain states more similar to the experts’.
Afterwards, they fed that data into the novice pilots via an electric scalp-cap. The results proved to be positive since novices were able to learn the pilot-related task 33% better than the placebo group. They were able to take the novice pilots and train them to a similar level of the experts, compared to the placebo group. This was proven by their lower levels of skill variance and higher level of landing consistency.
You may be wondering, how does this transfer work? Well, when you learn something, your brain physically changes. Connections are made and strengthened in a process called neuroplasticity. Certain functions of the brain, such as speech and memory, are located in very specific regions of the brain. The researchers’ brain simulation system was designed to target those changes to specific regions in the brain. Since each individual’s brain is different, the simulation is targeted and personalized to each different person. The method relies on physical contact with the scalp – a head-cap through conductive gel which is used to apply the current to the skin.
At this point, ‘uploading’ information is still in its infancy. More studies need to be conducted in relation to how long the effects last. In addition, the effects are still not instantaneous. The effects of the brain simulation system take days or weeks of practice to consolidate. So, while the future for individualized, information ‘uploads’ looks promising, it still has a long way to go!
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