For the first time, scientists have found that stimulating the brain could accelerate learning.
Matthew Phillips and his team from Malibu, Calif.-based HRL Information and System Sciences Laboratory used a brain-computer interface called transcranial direct current stimulation to transmit the recorded brainwave patterns from six commercial and military pilots to novices learning to fly.
The novices received the brainwaves from a rubber cap embedded with electrodes. These non-invasive electroencephalography (EEG) caps are commonly used in brainwave research and are able to detect and transmit brainwave activity through the skull.
Phillips and his team recruited thirty-two right-handed people for the study. Over a period of four consecutive days, the people ran through several basic flight training exercises, such as taking off, climbing to a certain altitude, performing a controlled descent, and landing the plane under various conditions including nighttime landing and landing in turbulent weather.
For the landings, the test subjects were asked to minimize the landing force — the G-force.
During the exercises, some of the participants received actual brain stimulation using signals recorded from experienced pilots. Other participants received mock stimulation.
When the results were analyzed, the scientists found that the subjects who had received brain stimulation from the pilots performed better than those who had not.
The transcranial direct current stimulation had improved their piloting abilities by 33 percent.
Anyone who has seen the movie, “The Matrix,” surely remembers the scene where Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) learns Kung-Fu in seconds just by having the right files uploaded through the port to his brain.
Brain stimulation could represent the nascent stage of this technology.
“As we discover more about optimizing, personalizing, and adapting brain stimulation protocols, we’ll likely see these technologies become routine in training and classroom environments,” Phillips told Neuroscience News.
“It’s possible that brain stimulation could be implemented for classes like drivers’ training, SAT prep, and language learning.”
The question is, which pill would you swallow?
The study was published in the February 2016 issue of the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.