New Matrix-Style Brain Stimulation Enhances Ability to Acquire New Skills

March 2, 2016 | Johannes Van Zijl

The matrix
Photo credit: Toni/flickr (CC BY 2.0)

What if you could learn to be an expert pilot faster, just by putting on a cap?

What if you could learn to be a better pilot, just by putting on a cap?

Researchers claim to have developed a brain stimulator that can essentially feed information directly into a person’s brain, helping to teach them new skills. As it stands, this could be the first step in the creation of advanced software that could make Matrix-style learning a reality.


A research team at HRL Laboratories in California have discovered that low-current electrical brain stimulation can modulate the learning of complex real-life skills. Dr.Matthew Phillips, who led the team of researchers at HRL’s Information and System Sciences Laboratory, used transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to improve learning and skill retention in subjects as they learned to pilot an airplane in a flight simulator.

In a media release, Dr.Matthew Phillips stated, "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."

The study found that the novice subjects who received brain stimulation via electrode-embedded head caps demonstrated piloting skills 33 percent better than their colleagues following the training.

While other studies have found some benefits of applying tDCS to brain-injured patients as well as individuals suffering from motion sickness, this was the first study of its kind that showed the effectiveness of tDCS in enhancing practical learning potential. The results were recently published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

"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," Dr Phillips said. "It's possible that brain stimulation could be implemented for classes like drivers' training, SAT prep, and language learning."

While tDCS one day could become part of our daily routines in acquiring new skills, it is surely the beginning of the long awaited opportunity to become anything you have always wanted to be.

The video below discusses how the enhanced pilot training through neurostimulation works:


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