Air Force Studying Using Electricity To Keep Troops Awake
The Air Force is apparently looking at ways to keep troops awake that don’t involve caffeine:
WASHINGTON — For some modern soldiers, caffeine is just not enough to stay vigilant, especially for the growing ranks of digital warriors who must spend hours monitoring spy drone footage and other streams of surveillance data.
So the Pentagon is exploring a novel way to extend troops’ attention spans and sharpen their reaction times: stimulate the brain with low levels of electricity.
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 sleep deprived but otherwise healthy troops.
“We found that people who receive the stimulation are performing consistently,” R. Andy McKinley, a biomedical engineer who oversees the research, said in an interview.
Project officials want to study the effects further — especially to determine whether it is safe to stimulate the brain regularly — but said there have been few side effects, such as some skin irritation from the electrodes, as well as mild but brief headaches. They expressed confidence that the work could ultimately result in a pair of easy-to-apply electrodes becoming standard issue for some military personnel.
The open question, of course, is what kind of long term effect such electric therapies could have on those who undergo them. At first glance, though, it seems like this might be a better alternative than caffeine or other stimulants that are known to have adverse impacts after long-term use.