24 October 2017

One and a half convolutions from the cap

For the US military, they tested a technology that increases intelligence

Ilya Vedmedenko, Naked Science

Scientists from different countries have repeatedly shown the world their ideas on how to expand human cognitive capabilities, in particular understanding, computing and learning. Now a group of specialists representing McGill University of Canada and HRL Laboratories research organization have shown very good results. The project was funded by the defense research agency DARPA, which develops fundamentally new military technologies for the US Army. The scientists' conclusions were presented on the EurekAlert website!

Experts applied transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). This technology is not new in the literal sense of the word: its effect on the brain has been actively studied for several decades. Previously, it has already found its application in countering the effects of stroke, treating depression and chronic pain. Now, scientists have found additional evidence that tDCS can be useful for a healthy person, partially figuring out the mechanism of how transcranial direct current stimulation affects the brain.

The concept itself is not too complicated. The electrodes can be attached to the head without surgical intervention, which increases the availability of the technology and makes its use possible in almost any conditions. Direct current affects the prefrontal cortex of the large hemispheres. The latter is responsible for various functions, in particular decision-making, memory and attention. When using the method, there is an increase in communication between different areas of the brain, contributing to the acceleration of learning.

The results of the tests conducted now turned out to be very encouraging. The experiment involved macaques who, using visual markers, had to determine the location of food. If before the use of stimulation, animals needed 22 attempts to find food, then after training only 12.

There are new tests ahead, which scientists intend to conduct on humans. After the approval of the method by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it will be possible to expect the use of the technology in humans. The armed forces can start using it by 2022. Experts believe that the technology will also be able to find its application in the civilian market. 

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