The MIlitary's Use of tDCS / by David Myers

So far on our blog we’ll explore a few different possibilities for tDCS applications; topics such as multi-tasking, decision making, and motor skills to name a few.  Most of these areas of study have come from neuroscience labs based out of hospitals or universities but a number of studies have also come from labs within the US military.  With the advent of this technology the military has taken a big interest in the potential to enhance the capacity for soldiers to perform better in the field.  We’ve mentioned before the podcast on NPR’s Radio Lab which takes a look at tDCS and specifically the military’s use to enhance the performance of snipers (Listen here: http://www.radiolab.org/story/9-volt-nirvana).  We also cited one of the papers put out by the  Wright-Patterson Air Force Base which looked at tDCS as a replacement for caffeine.   Aside from increasing vigilance of soldiers, this lab has also published a few studies examining the potential for tDCS to increase areas of function such as spatial awareness, decision making, and multitasking.

     One study performed by this same lab examined the effects of tDCS in a visual spatial task.  The task, a Synthetic  Aperture Radar (SAR) task involves viewing a screen and identifying which images on screen were targets or not.  This is a training simulation used for drone pilots which in practice receive a similar image from the live feed of a military drone.  The goal of this task was to see whether stimulation via tDCS could improve the score of the subjects.  Results showed that those who had received real stimulation condition had 25% greater accuracy compared to those who received sham stimulation or no stimulation. [1]   Another study employed by the military looked at the ability of soldiers to multi-task and how this skill was affected by tDCS.  Subjects played a flash game called Space Fortress which requires a high level of multi-tasking and the study demonstrated that those who had received real stimulation out performed those who received sham or no stimulation.[2]  Interestingly, the authors of the paper argued that an increase in focus and attention (similar to their previous study on caffeine and  vigilance) was the driving factor in an increased ability to multi-task.      

Only time will tell as to how the military will implement this technology more and more into the training of soldiers or perhaps as a real time application in the field of battle.  Be sure to comment below on what you think might be the future of the military and tDCS.

For more information, here’s a great article from the BBC (http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140603-brain-zapping-the-future-of-war)

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24341718
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25249958