Science & Technology
US military trials electric brain stimulation
By T.K. Randall
November 14, 2016 · 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
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