Originally published March 4 2014
See this 'shocking' new military treatment to fight caffeine addiction
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) The Defense Department is looking at a "shocking" new procedure that officials say may help today's modern warriors stay sharp on an increasingly digitized battlefield.
According to The Boston Globe, the Pentagon is experimenting with stimulating the brain with a series of low-level doses of electricity, to keep the growing ranks of digital warriors who monitor drone footage and other high-tech surveillance streams alert for hours on end. The aim is not only to keep digital warriors sharp but also to help them maintain quick reaction times.
As per the paper:
It sounds like science fiction, but commanders in search of more effective tools than the ubiquitous cups of coffee and energy drinks are testing medical treatments designed to treat such brain disorders as depression to determine whether they can also improve the attentiveness of sleepdeprived [sic] but otherwise healthy troops.
Long-term effects not yet known
Experiments thus far have utilized "non-invasive" brain stimulation. The experiments have been conducted on several dozen volunteers at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The early results are promising, say officials who noted that the low-dose shock treatment has improved alertness and focus.
"We found that people who receive the stimulation are performing consistently," R. Andy McKinley, a biomedical engineer who oversees the research, told the Globe.
Now, officials supervising the experiment want to further examine its effects, especially to see if it is safe to stimulate the brain in such a manner regularly. So far, the side effects have been minimal, but they include some skin irritation from the electrodes, as well as mild, brief headaches. Researchers said they were confident that their work could result in the development of a pair of easily applicable electrodes that would become standard issue for some personnel.
The research stems from military officials' recognition that, though computers have automated several military functions, humans are still needed nonetheless to monitor and process increasing amounts of digital information in order to make timely and proper battlefield decisions.
"It used to be the people who would win the arm wrestling match would win the war," said Alan Shaffer, the acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering. "In the future it is going to be who can process information most quickly and react to that. If you can't make sense of all the information coming in around you and get to a decision it has little value."
What is known more widely as "electroconvulsive therapy" carried some stigma for decades, the Globe reported. That was due in large part to early treatments which delivered large electrical shocks to psychiatric patients without any anesthetic; those treatments often led to memory loss, bone fractures and other serious side effects.
Per the Globe:
But such therapy now relies on carefully controlled doses of electrical current, which are passed into certain regions of the brain to cause, in effect, a minor seizure, or more rapid nerve impulses. Some of the techniques have been embraced by the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Psychiatric Association, and the US Surgeon General as a valuable tool to treat various psychiatric disorders, especially major depression.
Nevertheless, there is not much data regarding research into the technique's effects on healthy people.
"There is some evidence that it does seem to work," Dr. William "Scott" Killgore, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School who specializes in the mental health treatments, told the paper. "There have been a few studies that if you use it in the right place it can help mathematical calculations when people are sleep-deprived."
That said, the data "is not very precise yet."
"The hard part is to know what to turn on and what to turn off," said Killgore, who is also researching which parts of the brain would most benefit from stimulation. "It gets somewhat complicated. It is a really exciting idea but it is slow going."
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