Beaming information onto the brain: Learning like Kung Fu Keanu in The Matrix

Researchers found a way to imprint information on the brain via its visual processors

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Someday, will all learning be as quick and convenient as the Kung Fu lessons downloaded into Keanu Reeves' brain in The Matrix?

Researchers from Boston University and Japan's ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories have figured out how to use data from functional MRIs to create a method of neurofeedback that can project a pre-recorded pattern into some sections of the brain.

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The resulting pattern in the brain is very similar to the same material imprinted using more conventional learning techniques, according to a paper published in the journal Science.

The authors figured out a way to effectively imprint information onto the visual cortex– information that was absorbed well enough to allow human test subjects to perform vision-oriented tasks the imprinted pattern described with more efficiency than they could manage beforehand.

Their conclusion is that it may be possible to use the approach to "teach" humans some things the same way we "teach" computers – by downloading the lesson into available storage, relying on the self-deterministic ability of the brain itself to adapt the imprinted material into a form it can use in much the same way it would if it had learned the material the old-fashioned way.

So, is it possible?

Yes.

Is it realistically possible?

No.

How hard would it be to port an app to your brain?

Consider how difficult it is to transfer not just raw data, but instructions and data from one computer to another and get the new one to perform correctly.

Data is relatively easy, which implies you might be able to transfer memories, or raw information like the names and dates in office of all the American presidents into a human brain fairly easily.

But programmatic commands? Go here. Do this. Kick Agent Smith(s). Change facial expression (it's Keanu, remember?).

Photo Credit: 

National Science Foundation/Kazuhisa Shibata

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