US Military Successfully Uses Electrical Pulses to Enhance Staff's Cognitive Ability

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

Scientists paid to work out how to make the US military even scarier have reported successful results for an experiment involving electrical pulses and human brains. They managed to use a method called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to enhance the cognitive ability of servicemen, improving their performance in high-pressure situations.

Though the long-term effects of tDCS are unknown, the results of the test are exciting. Unless you’re a farmer somewhere in the Middle East, of course.

“Within the air force, various operations such as remotely piloted and manned aircraft operations require a human operator to monitor and respond to multiple events simultaneously over a long period of time,” reads the report from scientists at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. “With the monotonous nature of these tasks, the operator’s performance may decline shortly after their work shift commences.”

We’ve all been there.

As part of their research, they assessed the multi-tasking skills of a 20-strong group of men and women at the base by asking them to keep a crosshair inside a moving circle on a computer screen... while simultaneously completing three other on-screen tasks.

The scientists developed brain stimulation kits, which beamed weak electric currents to specific parts of the volunteers’ cortex. Half of the group had a two milliamp current beamed into their brain throughout the 36-minute-long test, while the volunteers in the other half of the study were only treated to 30 seconds of zapping at the beginning of the test. According to the scientists, tDCS had a “profound” effect.

“The findings provide new evidence that tDCS has the ability to augment and enhance multitasking capability in a human operator,” their report concludes.

However, before employers desperately start plugging their workers into the cheapest brain stimulation machines they can find on Amazon, larger studies need to be carried out in order to work out whether or not the performance improvements are real and look into the long-term consequences of tDCS. [Guardian]