For their part, Byrne and company will now use these same techniques to try to optimize other aspects of the memory formation process in sea slugs. If that proves successful, they may eventually move on to humans. Motor skills would probably be the first target—throwing a baseball, doing the high jump, or helping a stroke victim to walk again. Science homework will have to wait. Researchers know more about the brain circuits in the cerebellum, involved with movement, than in the hippocampus, a locus for initiating the type of factual memories needed for organic chemistry.
Better ways to learn based on brain science would have enormous ramifications for educational practices. "It's not going to be an easy direction to follow because it means a lot of painstaking and detailed work to understand the biochemistry of learning," Byrne says. "But I think what it demonstrates is that if you have that information you may be able to make some big advancements in improving learning abilities by being in sync with the underlying molecular dynamics. Rather than taking cognitive enhancement drugs, you could have better training procedures."
Get out the stopwatch and stash the pill bottle.
Image Source: John Byrne