Imagine an electronic headband that can make you smarter when you wear it. That is what the Scientists of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, also known as DARPA, are developing. They claim this Device can increase learning by 40 percent. They hope this will be the answer to affordably improving cognitive function for humans.

Scientists from institutions in the U.S and Canada such as HRL Laboratories, McGill University, and Soterix Medical have developed a device that uses electrical currents to stimulate and alter the brain’s activity.

They recently tested the device on a group of macaque monkeys.

The experiment’s results

An experiment using a neurostimulator, also referred to as tDCS (short for Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation), was conducted on a group of macaque monkeys. The macaques were tasked to associate visual stimuli with locations in order to receive a reward.

The experiment, published in the journal Current Biology, revealed that the tDCS macaques did better than the control macaques by over 40 percent. The control group took 22 trials before accomplishing their task, while the tDCS group took only 12 trials.

According to Praveen Pilly, who held a leading role in the experiment, they focused on targeting the prefrontal cortex.

Pilly further explains that the prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that controls its main functions such as cognitive function, retrieval of memory, and decision making. Stimulation of the prefrontal cortex has widespread effects on the rest of the brains regions.

The results have shown that the stimulation device prompted changes to the brain’s various regions, as opposed to neuron firing rates that prompted the enhanced performance.

The device’s use for humans in the near future

When concluding the experiment, the research team agreed the results were consistent with their theory. tDCS prompts efficiency and improvement in cerebral activity. The device may be a paramount innovation for cheaply and non-invasively improving brain function.

The research was conducted to aid brain-trauma or PTSD sufferers.

Commenced by DARPA's Restoring Active Memory (RAM) program, researchers are hoping to develop technologies for memory retrieval. In time, DARPA’s hopes of creating a wireless device that is able to restore memories and improve memory function.

Designers and scientists predict this device will be widely available for the market in just less than a decade.