If you've e ver been educated, and the fact that you're reading this means that you either have or are extremely good at guessing, you've tried to find a way to enhance your memory. Reading things ten times, flash cards, enough coffee to accelerate an elephant to eighty-eight miles an hour - and none of them work. Now scientists may have found an all-purpose "memory on" switch hiding in your head.
A team of German an UK researchers have applied magnetoencephalographic techniques to look inside the very living brain of dozens of people, and if that fact doesn't impress you chalk one up to "humans can get used to anything." These people have machines that can scan your mind and draw maps! Sure, those maps are like urban planners trying to document a computer chip, not really sure of which does what or how to represent it, but we can still see some general functions from all the data acquired.
One such signal is theta wave activity in the medial temporal lobe just before long-lasting memories are formed. Even better, this isn't accurate-and-useless info like "cause your cells to metabolize fat to lose weight" - theta waves are accessible. At about six cycles per second in the voltage differences measured across the brain, theta brain waves are a quarter of the frequency of the normal (alpha) waking signals and are associated with deep thought, meditation and problem solving.
People could conceivably come into this state consciously, priming their brain for input and aiding in learning. Of course, the brain has an "input off" mode for a reason - you only have to look at the average forum to see the problem with "all input no thought" misuse of the mind, so such systems should be used with care. Some suggest external activation of this memory switch, but we're quite a long way from "applying an external voltage across the brain" for anything other than dealing with Arnold Schwarzeneger on Mars just yet.
Posted by Luke McKinney