It sounds like the stuff of science fiction: people wearing a headband to ‘turbocharge’ their brain power, becoming 40% better at learning than ‘normal humans’.
But military scientists have begun testing a device which achieves the effect in primates, and they claim that similar devices could be on sale in five years.
In tests, macaques wearing a headband which delivered current to an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex learned how to find rewards far faster – taking 12 trials to ‘learn’ something rather than 22.
The researchers are now seeking approval for a human version of the device, and the lead study author claims it could be on sale within five years.
The research was carried out by McGill University in Montreal, with funding from the Defense Advance Research Project Agency (DARPA).
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Dr Praveen Pilly, principal investigator, said: ‘In this experiment we targeted the prefrontal cortex with individualised non-invasive stimulation montages.
‘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 behavioural effect was revealed when they learned to find the reward faster.’