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Pilots training time cut in half with transcrainial electrical stimulation...
November 30, 2011 1:58 PM   Subscribe

Turns out you can up learning rate with a small current across brain Scientific American: Amping Up Brain Function: Transcranial Stimulation Shows Promise in Speeding Up Learning Electrical stimulation of subjects' brains is found to accelerate learning in military and civilian subjects, although researchers are yet wary of drawing larger conclusions about the mechanism.... I believe I've also seen some posts on external (strong) magnetic fields being able to hinder or help learning as well. Strange times we live in.
posted by aleph (37 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Re: magnetic fields, fMRI accelerates learning to identify concealed objects.
posted by Behemoth at 2:00 PM on November 30, 2011


This is also known as the Venkman Method.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:01 PM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


If 2ma provides a small improvement, think what 200ma would do.
posted by MtDewd at 2:03 PM on November 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


"What is 12 times 12?"

"140?"

ZAP!!!

"GAH! 144?!!!"

"Don't let it happen again."
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:05 PM on November 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


Awesome! I was just about to reinstall a Vulcan's brain. This should make it much simpler.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:06 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, hook me up to a powerplant then.
posted by fuq at 2:16 PM on November 30, 2011


I'll stick with trepanning and skip this pseudo-science mumbo-jumbo, thank you very much.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:17 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's Dr. Venkman!
posted by theredpen at 2:18 PM on November 30, 2011


So many conflicted emotions about this. On one hand - awesome! But on the other hand, it's sad that this effect was discovered so the US military could train people more efficiently in the techniques of drone bombing. And on the gripping hand, I wonder if it holds up over time. The article says there were observed changes in the brain, but if this is like any other kind of electrical stimulation (except maybe pacemakers) it will get less effective with repeated use.

Still awesome, though.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:26 PM on November 30, 2011


Tase at me Brofessor.
posted by srboisvert at 2:28 PM on November 30, 2011


How about a sub-threshold dose of LSD, maybe 5mcg? No hole in head needed.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:32 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


The future looks strangely like the 1900's.
posted by poe at 2:33 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm going to make my new hat of equal halves -- one side zinc, the other copper.
When I need to think slower, I'll just turn my hat around and reverse the current flow.
posted by hank at 2:43 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


So conversely, this means my lead foil hat has been making me more stupid?

God damn it.
posted by LarryC at 2:45 PM on November 30, 2011


I once pissed on an electrical fence. I learned to never do that again. It was the fastest lesson ever. I'm 41 and I still burn myself on a stove, but you'll never see me making that fence mistake again.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:45 PM on November 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


fMRI accelerates learning to identify concealed objects.

Just to be clear, fMRI is not the causal agent here, it is an imaging method. But you probably meant that.
posted by stroke_count at 2:46 PM on November 30, 2011


Just one step closer to Dr. Venture's learning beds!
posted by FatherDagon at 2:56 PM on November 30, 2011


I'm guessing this would work for muscle memory, too -- reading between the lines at the wiki page suggests the mechanisms are similar. This is relevant to my interests. MAKE, get on it!

O wait...
posted by LordSludge at 2:57 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


As someone who has undergone some brain stimulation experiments before (not court ordered! I was helping out a fellow grad student with his research project), I think it is safe to say that this research should be taken with an enormous grain of salt. I took part in a learning/memory type study that looked at the effect of TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), which is similarish to this study, and the one thing I took out of it as a scientist was that it was impossible to do a proper control study of this technology. Basically it is difficult to do something that "feels" like your brain is being zapped without actually zapping it.

The article mentions that they did controls by producing "a similar sensation in the scalp" but if it's anything like the controls used for TMS, I'd be inclined to think that it wasn't that similar at all. It was really easy to tell the difference between the "on" and "off" conditions and it's hard to imagine that this doesn't affect the subject's responses.

Which isn't to say that this isn't a real, and interesting effect. They also saw "changes" in Diffusion Tensor Imaging maps of the brain, which, although a very new MRI technique, is definitely an interesting sign that there is something real going on. Now, of course, those changes could be coming from the fact that you zapping the brain over and over, so... grain of salt and whatnot.
posted by artichoke_enthusiast at 3:08 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


DO tase me, bro. Do indeed.
posted by Mister_A at 3:13 PM on November 30, 2011


Also saw a recent article surveying some of the external scanning techniques that are beginning to learn how to read what's going on in there. Perhaps artichoke_enthusiast could comment...

http://www.economist.com/node/21534748

Mind-goggling
It is now possible to scan someone’s brain and get a reasonable idea of what is going through his mind...
posted by aleph at 3:49 PM on November 30, 2011


See? I knew sticking a battery on my tongue would lead to better things.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:15 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nice try, Milgram.
posted by symbioid at 4:39 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


A little dab'll do ya...
posted by PuppyCat at 4:42 PM on November 30, 2011


They're called EBE's - Electronic Brain Enhancements.

Don't be a fool. Go Easy on Your EBE's
posted by joelf at 5:06 PM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hmmm. They said the same thing to sell me a device to stimulate my abs... lesseee if THIS works...
posted by stratastar at 5:13 PM on November 30, 2011


"That's a wonderful story, Bodie. I noticed you've stopped stuttering."
I've been giving myself shock treatments.
"Up the volLLltage!?"
posted by herrdoktor at 5:51 PM on November 30, 2011


All it taught me was "DON'T touch that wire again"!
posted by sammyo at 6:02 PM on November 30, 2011


If you think that's shocking, wait until you see the electric bill!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:22 PM on November 30, 2011


If mine is the last generation to grow old or be stupid, I'm gonna be pissed.
posted by nicwolff at 7:06 PM on November 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


I wonder how well they're filtering out the placebo effect? If you can feel the electrical current that could serve as a 'reminder' to learn
posted by delmoi at 7:45 PM on November 30, 2011


Mefi project: Home version! Particularly interested in the "increased arousal" effect. Measurable?
posted by gorgor_balabala at 7:50 PM on November 30, 2011


EBE also stands for extraterrestrial biological entity. coincidence?
posted by TMezz at 9:27 PM on November 30, 2011


Time until parents here in Korea start strapping live wires across their kids' heads in hopes it will somehow help them get into one of the top 3 universities: 3, 2, 1...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:03 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing this would work for muscle memory, too

Not quite what you meant, but on the subject of electrical stimulation to develop muscle memory, see PossessedHand (previously). Or you could take your volition out of the loop entirely.
posted by hattifattener at 2:24 AM on December 1, 2011


Time until parents here in Korea start strapping live wires across their kids' heads in hopes it will somehow help them get into one of the top 3 universities: 3, 2, 1...

Screw that! Take enough Cortexiphan while zapping your brain and you can get into one of the top 3 universes.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:03 AM on December 1, 2011


You could partially control for the placebo effect by using local shocks that wouldn't pass through the brain.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:44 PM on December 2, 2011


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