Uploading new skills to the brain just as in “The Matrix”

Uploading new skills to the brain just as in “The Matrix” (Credit: Reuters)
Uploading new skills to the brain just as in “The Matrix” (Image Credit: Reuters)

Main Point:

One of the first studies to find that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can help in faster learning of new skills.

Published in:

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

Study Further:

“The Matrix” is one of most popular science fiction movies of our time. It has many interesting concepts ranging from stopping bullets with the help of hands to transportation through telephones and learning new skills without going anywhere. This last thing has gotten attention of many people as every person on this Earth is trying to learn new skills to improve his or her life.

In a new study, researchers from HRL Laboratories in California have reported that low-current electrical brain stimulation can help in learning new skills without going anywhere. In the study, researchers used transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to improve learning as well as skill retention – one of the first studies to show that tDCS can increase practical learning. In tDCS, low level of current is constantly delivered to the brain area of interest with the help of electrodes on the skin that covers the head.

“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,” Dr. Matthew Phillips, one of the researchers of the study, said.

Researchers found that piloting abilities of the participants of the study, who have received brain stimulation through electrode-embedded head caps, were improved.

“We measured the average g-force of the plane during the simulated landing and compared it to control subjects who received a mock brain stimulation,” says Phillips.

Participants, who received brain stimulation via electrode-embedded head caps, improved their abilities. Moreover, they were 33% better in learning the task as compared to placebo group.

“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,” he says. “It’s possible that brain stimulation could be implemented for classes like drivers’ training, SAT prep, and language learning.”


HRL Laboratories. HRL Demonstrates The Potential To Enhance The Human Intellect’s Existing Capacity To Learn New Skillshttp://goo.gl/Ju4t3O

Choe, J., Coffman, B., Bergstedt, D., Ziegler, M., & Phillips, M. (2016). Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Modulates Neuronal Activity and Learning in Pilot Training Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00034

Usman Zafar Paracha

Usman Zafar Paracha is a sort of entrepreneur. He is the author of "Color Atlas of Statistics", and the owner of an Android game "Faily Rocket."