U.S. Military Tests Brain Stimulation to Sharpen Mental Skills

Posted November 11, 2016 at 6:09am

Smithsonian.com asks: “What if you could improve your mental skills with a simple jolt of electricity? If it sounds like a scenario out of your favorite dystopian TV sci-fi show du jour, think again. As Ian Sample reports for The Guardian, the days of brain-enhancing machines could be upon us with the announcement that the U.S. military has successfully used electronic brain stimulators to up its staff’s mental skills.” 

“In an attempt to improve the multitasking and cognitive skills of members of the U.S. Air Force, researchers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio tested a technology called transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS. They published the results of their work in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. tDCS is a painless form of non-invasive brain stimulation originally developed to treat psychiatric conditions like Parkinson’s and depression. In this case, however, it was put to the test on 20 Air Force members to improve the ways in which they process information while multitasking.”

“During the trial, the subjects were separated into two groups. Both were hooked up to kits with five electrodes, but only one group’s kits continued brain stimulation for longer than 30 seconds at the beginning of the test. The electrodes deliver low-level electronic currents directly into the brain’s cortex in pulses that are thought to cause neurons to fire.”