Monday, September 25, 2017

Shock Treatment


This story is from back in May, but it's still alarming right now. Philip Perry at Big Think reports that DARPA is financing research on ways to "educate" you by jamming some electricity into your brain.

DARPA announced this new initiative back in March of 2016. Targeted Neoplasticity Training (TNT) would involve delivering some "mild electric shocks" to a specific nerve "in order to facilitate learning." The idea is to hook up to the peripheral nerves ( the same network used to promote healing and operate robot prosthetics) and use electric impulses to stimulate the growth of neuronal connections inside the brain, releasing the neurochemicals "responsible for reorganizing the brain in response to new experiences."

DARPA is handing out $50 million to eight teams that will be working on this.

Yes, there's some research that sort of kinda backs this up, like this paper about Vagus nerve stimulation helping verbal memory and fighting off Alzheimers and battling depression and treating epilepsy.

Of course, we've also learned that plain old exercise helps grow brain cells, too. But that's not as cool as Matrix-style plug-and-play humans who can learn martial arts by jamming a wire into the port in the back of their neck.

Back in April, Xiaoqin Wang, a biomedical engineering professor at Johns Hopkins announced that he expected to start zapping some live humans within a few months, so this stuff may already be going on. There are many questions left to be answered-- is it better to zap before or after the learning takes place? How big a zap? And does this work any better than coffee or sleep?

Certainly this would be a game-changer for schools, and even the advent of computer-based personalized learning would be altered as hardware designers would have to figure out how best to wire up the students. USB ports? And would teachers get control of the system? "Pat, you just can't seem to grasp adverb clauses, so I'm going to up your voltage."  A brave new world, indeed.

1 comment:

  1. I guess they have to do something since women aren't cooperating by allowing a probe to be inserted into their uterus during pregnancy for the training the fetuses. Gotta love it...they want super humans.