Military's Coffee Alternative: Shocks to the Brain?

Air Force testing electric stimulation for drone operators
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Feb 23, 2014 11:41 AM CST
The Air Force is experimenting with using electric shocks to keep drone monitors alert.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – When you're spending hours tracking the activity of spy drones, it can be hard to stay alert, even if you've got Red Bull. Now, the military is testing a caffeine alternative, and it involves the unlikely tactic of shocking drone operators' brains, the Boston Globe reports. The results so far? "We found that people who receive the stimulation are performing consistently," says a researcher in charge. In fact, after tests which sometimes lasted hours, participants were still alert, "just like they were at minute one."

The tests involve small, precise amounts of current which effectively induce miniature seizures, the Globe explains. Side effects so far include minor headaches; experts are still exploring the effects of long-term, regular use. That's just one of the questions that remain. It's also difficult "to know what to turn on and what to turn off" within the brain, says another expert. "It is a really exciting idea, but it is slow going.” And don't expect your local Starbucks to be replaced by an electroshock center: The idea is only aimed at the military. That doesn't mean civilians aren't trying similar techniques, however, as the Verge notes. (Read more Air Force stories.)

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