OCT 19, 2017 07:02 AM PDT

Can Nerve Stimulation Improve Learning?

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When the brain has to learn new skills and adapt to new environments, that process is called "neuroplasticity." It's crucial to learning and retaining information. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have received a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to look at ways to improve this brain function and possibly even speed it up.

Using stimulation of the nerves peripheral to the brain, in the head and neck area, the team of medical engineers, neuroscientists and medical professionals at UW-M hope to show that learning can be enhanced with stimulators along the key nerves that surround the brain. It's a technique that's similar to what acupuncturists do. It's been known for decades that stimulating these nerves can boost neuromodulators in the brain like dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. These can then improve neuron connections and speed up the time it takes to learn a new task or familiarize oneself with a new environment. This ability would be especially valuable for military service members.
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