Air Force operator receiving transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) to accelerate learning.

By running a mild electric current through the brains of pilots during lessons, Air Force researchers have cut their personnel’s learning time in half.  Pilots were being taught how to identify targets using drones—the practice is increasingly important to modern warfare and one which, due to its difficulty, is holding back the deployment of drones. Caffeine and other stimulants have been tested to aid learning but none work as well as two milliamperes of direct current for 30 minutes to pilot’s brains during training sessions on video simulators.


What’s the Big Idea?

The technology could be applied in situations far beyond a military context. “By using electricity to energize neural circuits in the cerebral cortex, researchers are hopeful that they have found a harmless and drug-free way to double the speed of learning.” Research on brain-machine interface suggests that quicker learning speeds could aid patients learning to use robotic prosthetics as the proper brainwaves needed to control them are difficult to learn.

Photo credit: Scientific American

Via Big Think