Taking a 9-Volt to the Brain Increases Videogame Skill

| 17 Apr 2011 23:44

Hooking your brain up to a battery might improve skill with videogames.

A DARPA-funded study has determined that running electricity through the scalp might help sharpen our minds. The performance of test subjects playing a military training game improved when they were affected by transcranial direct-current stimulation (tCDS).

In other words, sponges that generated an electrical current were attached to their temples. The subjects played DARWARS Ambush!, a game designed to help train soldiers for duty in Iraq. In it, players must scan for signs of trouble in a landscape, such as improvised explosive devices or enemy gunmen.

Neuroscientists at the University of New Mexico ran 2 milliamps of electricity through the scalps of half the volunteers, and 1/20 that amount through the other half. The 2 milliamp group showed twice as much improvement after a short amount of time compared to the 1/20 group.

The jury is still out on tCDS, but these results suggest that introducing a change to the flow of electricity in the brain could potentially aid in learning-based tasks, or even in the treatment of depression and other disorders. 2 milliamps is around 1/500 the amount of electricity found in a 100-watt lightbulb, so tCDS doesn't appear to require much power. Still, unless you're a neuroscientist, don't go hooking up an array of 9-volts to your head to see if you can rank-up faster in Call of Duty. Wait for an FCC-approved device first.

Source: Nature, via PopSci

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