DARPA, the Pentagon's ultra-secretive 'Q Lab', is working on a brain implant that could help soldiers (and eventually us mere mortals), learn a skill far quicker than normal.
The RAM Replay Program, which begins testing this month, will carefully study the processes the brain goes through when trying to learn a new physical or mental skill.
Researchers will study the physical and neurological interfaces that take place, the environmental cues and the sleep-wake cycle to better understand how the brain is reinforcing new skills.
"DARPA is about to launch a new effort to develop neurotechologies that may help individuals not just better remember individual items but learn physical skills."
Justin Sanchez, program manager said: “Everyone has had the experience of struggling to remember long lists of items or complicated directions to get somewhere,”
“Today we are discovering how implantable neurotechnologies can facilitate the brain’s performance of these functions.”
The RAM Replay Program isn't just about creating faster, more intelligent soldiers, it's also closely tied into DARPA's Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS) program which is researching how similar technologies could be used to help soldiers suffering from PTSD.
Started over a year ago, the SUBNETS program uses a process called Deep Brain Stimulation via a tiny chip implanted into the patient's brain.
When the chip registers that something is wrong, minuscule electrical pulses are then applied to the affected areas restoring the patient’s brain to a healthy state.
The hope is that in the long run this could have a permanent effect on the soldier, effectively curing PTSD.
As with any technique that involves tampering with a person’s brain, researchers are remaining cautious. However the project’s principal investigator Emad Eskandar MD is confident that the technology will work for both soldiers and civilians.
“We’re strongly encouraged by the previous data connected with this approach, our hope is that this project will not only restore quality of life for those affected, both military and civilian, but dramatically change the way we approach the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders.”