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US military trials electric brain stimulation

By T.K. Randall
November 14, 2016 · Comment icon 7 comments

Electrical brain stimulation can help maintain concentration. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Allan Ajifo
Drone operators and other military personnel could have their effectiveness boosted by electrical pulses.
The new technology has been trialled by researchers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio who noted that the concentration of drone operators can slump during long, tedious missions.

The cognitive boost is applied via 'brain simulation kits' which use electrodes attached to a person's head to beam weak electrical pulses in to a part of the brain known as the cortex.

The technique is seen as an effective alternative to prescription performance-enhancing drugs and so far no ill-effects have been reported by those who have been subjected to it.

Known as "transcranial direct current stimulation" (tDCS), the method also proved effective during similar tests last year which found it much better than caffeine at keeping soldiers vigilant.
"The findings provide new evidence that tDCS has the ability to augment and enhance multitasking capability in a human operator," the researchers wrote.

Despite the benefits however, some officials have expressed concern over the long-term side effects of the technique, especially if personnel are being forced to use it against their will.

"I have more serious worries about the extent to which participants can give informed consent, and whether they can opt out once it is approved for use," said Neil Levy of the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics.

"Even for those jobs where attention is absolutely critical, you want to be very careful about making it compulsory, or there being a strong social pressure to use it, before we are really sure about its long-term safety."

Source: The Guardian | Comments (7)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by AdealJustice 8 years ago
it would essentially be training their brains? Really interesting stuff. I hope we can a smart pill in the future  if this technique works many need it and should be a part of the education system of campuses
Comment icon #2 Posted by Clair 8 years ago
I most certainly could have used a few jolts during exam time. I like the concept of this, particularly as it sounds like a far better alternative to habit-forming drugs.
Comment icon #3 Posted by highdesert50 8 years ago
It appears they are using drugs to address shift work disorder and attention deficit. Why not support an eon of evolution that is more consistent with the notion of shorter shifts or maintaining more consistency with the shifts.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Parsec 8 years ago
The US Military is testing brain stimulation through electrical pulses?  What could possibly go wrong?   
Comment icon #5 Posted by Parsec 8 years ago
I don't like the concept at all.  But the general idea of that.    Do we really have to use drugs or a mild electroshock to keep people up and focused working?  What's next, they will have a gastric and an intestinal bypass plugged in, so they won't get distracted by such trivial things like eating and going to the bathroom? 
Comment icon #6 Posted by paperdyer 8 years ago
Sounds like a good idea for a movie and TV show!  Oh, yeah.  Already been done.  If some doctors are worried about being able to stop using the tech, it sounds like it's more of a drug.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Parsec 8 years ago
As far as I understand no.  It's more like giving them mild electric shocks in order to stay awake.    Maybe they could invent a pinching machine, I think it could be as much effective. 

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