Air Force Researchers Test Mild Electric Shocks As A Caffeine Substitute

Source: Adi Robertson / The Verge

Can you shock your brain into performing better? Maybe.

The Boston Globe reports that the US military is exploring passing mild electrical current through the brain as a replacement for soldiers’ coffee and energy drinks, especially during long stretches of mind-numbing drone surveillance or data monitoring. Over the last few years, researchers at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base have been at the forefront of the project, conducting tests that give healthy volunteers electrical stimulation treatments that are currently used to alleviate depression and other conditions. In one test, subjects were kept awake for 30 hours, staying alert with either caffene, electrical stimulation, or nothing.

Biomedical engineer Andy McKinley tells the Globe that subjects given stimulation in the test performed twice as well at the end of the period than those who had received nothing, while caffeine had “tanked.” Another study, published last year, tested how well participants performed when asked to search and identify targets. In some scenarios, those who received electrical stimulation were better able to learn and complete the tasks, although the exact effects were far from clear.

To read this article in its entirety visit The Verge.