We’d all love to learn how to do shit without, well, actually doing shit. We see a lot of this stuff happening in the movies, with subliminal learning tapes (a la Homer Simpson), installing new programs in robots, or in The Matrix.
Well, scientists are working on it! By basically taking the fMRI data from functionally superior people, it is possible to take that neuro-programming and transfer it to another person’s brain so that their brains are able to rehearse the patterns of activity associated with that particular behavior. It’s all about your brain learning how to activate these programs and next thing you know it, you’ll have the same programming that Olympians do without all the practice that they put into perfecting their form. Of course, being able to perform as they do requires a whole new set of things like physical strength and discipline which haven’t yet been worked into this particular neuroscientific equation.
Here’s how it works: you pick a task that requires high performance from your visual cortex, like catching a ball. Then, you go find someone who’s a pro at catching a ball, stick them in an fMRI machine, and record what’s going on in their brain while they visualize catching a ball. Now you’ve got your ball-catching program, and you’re ready to learn. Next step: put yourself into the fMRI machine, and rig it to induce that pro ball-catching imagery that you recorded earlier in your brain using neurofeedback. You don’t even have to be paying attention while this is going on. Your brain, though, becomes familiar with that pattern, which is what learning is: your brain becoming familiar with patterns. Play that pattern back enough, and you will get better at whatever activity the pattern is associated with.
This isn’t just conjecture: the researchers involved have shown that this fMRI pattern playback can in fact “cause long-lasting improvement in tasks that require visual performance… In theory, a type of automated learning is a potential outcome.
It’s pretty fuckin’ cool. What kind of shit would you guys want to learn if this were to become widely available in our lifetimes?