Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Arlington, VA, United States (4E) – The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is forging ahead with the development of a headband device that can increase the learning capacities of American soldiers by an astounding 40%.
The headband is a “Non-invasive Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation” (tDCS) device. It was designed by researchers at HRL Laboratories (the research arm of Hughes Aircraft) and McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The project is being funded by DARPA.
The new headband is designed to make people smarter, and is the latest development in devices aimed at increasing military capacities.
The device applies a current to the prefrontal cortex area of the brain. This current creates fluctuations in the connectivity between the different areas of the brain, thereby increasing learning capacity.
Researchers discovered that a modulated connectivity between certain areas of the brain causes an increase in the speed at which we learn.
Researchers tested the tDCS headband on macaque monkeys. They found it initially took the monkeys around 15 seconds to recall an item. When the monkeys learned the location of the reward, it only took them two seconds to locate the item.
Prior to undergoing tDCS treatment, the monkeys, on average, needed 22 attempts to locate the rewards. With the tDCS device, the number of attempts was reduced to only 12.
“In this experiment we targeted the prefrontal cortex with individualised non-invasive stimulation montages,” said Dr Praveen Pilly, the research principle investigator.
“That is the region that controls many executive functions including decision-making, cognitive control, and contextual memory retrieval. It is connected to almost all the other cortical areas of the brain, and stimulating it has widespread effects. It is also the target of choice in most published behavioural enhancement studies and case studies with transcranial stimulation.”
The team from HRL Laboratories and McGill University hope tDCS headband will be approved by the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), and believe their technology could be commonly used in as little as five to 10 years’ time.
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