When it comes to futuristic technology, the US Military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (or DARPA, for short) is the definition of “cutting edge”.
On Mar. 16, DARPA announced the launch of a program called Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT). The goal: to improve people’s ability to learn.
The program is based on recent research that shows that certain parts of the brain — specifically, the peripheral nerves — become excited when our brain goes into peak learning mode. The idea is to mimic that excitement by using a small device to artificially stimulate the peripheral nerves, allowing the brain to stay in peak learning mode for longer periods of time.
“Recent research has shown that stimulation of certain peripheral nerves, easily and painlessly achieved through the skin, can activate regions of the brain involved with learning,” said Doug Weber, TNT’s Program Manager. He added,
“This natural process of synaptic plasticity is pivotal for learning, but much is unknown about the physiological mechanisms that link peripheral nerve stimulation to improved plasticity and learning.”
In other words, we know that stimulating the peripheral nerves enhances people’s ability to learn — we just don’t know why yet.
Still, DARPA sees endless potential in the TNT program, and the agency is already thinking about possible applications. In its press release, DARPA writes,
“If successful, TNT could accelerate learning and reduce the time needed to train foreign language specialists, intelligence analysts, cryptographers, and others.”
That being said, the program is still in its early stages. For now, DARPA’s main objective is to find the scientists and engineers who can design and build the TNT device.
You can check out DARPA’s full press release on the TNT Program here.