Technological advances are usually meant to make things easier for people. Sci-fi movies and books have featured every kind of gadget and invention that anyone could have ever dreamed of, which brings us to ask: What if science could actually make some of them real? Recent research might provide the answer, as it opens an important field in effortless learning through brain technology.
Researchers at ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, and Boston University, US, have studied early visual areas for their potential ability to cause visual perceptual learning. They found that by using decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), it was possible to induce brain activity patterns to match a previously known target state. This way the subject would see how his or her performance on visual tasks would improve.
“The most surprising thing in this study is that mere inductions of neural activation patterns corresponding to a specific visual feature, led to visual performance improvement on the visual feature, without presenting the feature or subjects’ awareness of what was to be learned,” said Takeo Watanabe, lead author and neuroscientist at Boston University.
The research is still at a preliminary stage, but it could be an important step on achieving a technique of effortless learning as watched in the movie Matrix. This technology could eventually be able of having the subject’s brain patterns modified to match those of an athlete, or to recover from an accident or disease. Its immediate application will be in memory, motor and rehabilitation learning.
Shibata K, Watanabe T, Sasaki Y, & Kawato M (2011). Perceptual Learning Incepted by Decoded fMRI Neurofeedback Without Stimulus Presentation. Science (New York, N.Y.), 334 (6061), 1413-1415 PMID: 22158821