Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation


... The experience wasn’t simply about the easy pleasure of undeserved expertise. When the nice neuroscientists put the electrodes on me, the thing that made the earth drop out from under my feet was that for the first time in my life, everything in my head finally shut the fuck up.

The experiment I underwent was accelerated marksmanship training on a simulation the military uses. I spent a few hours learning how to shoot a modified M4 close-range assault rifle, first without tDCS and then with. Without it I was terrible, and when you’re terrible at something, all you can do is obsess about how terrible you are. And how much you want to stop doing the thing you are terrible at.

Then this happened: The 20 minutes I spent hitting targets while electricity coursed through my brain were far from transcendent. I only remember feeling like I had just had an excellent cup of coffee, but without the caffeine jitters. I felt clear-headed and like myself, just sharper. Calmer. Without fear and without doubt. From there on, I just spent the time waiting for a problem to appear so that I could solve it.

It was only when they turned off the current that I grasped what had just happened. Relieved of the minefield of self-doubt that constitutes my basic personality, I was a hell of a shot. And I can’t tell you how stunning it was to suddenly understand just how much of a drag that inner cacophony is on my ability to navigate life and basic tasks.

Read all about it (and the new ethical questions it poses) in Sally Adee's post -- Better Living Through Electrochemistry

6 Comments:

  1. MP said...

    A close cousin is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, which is a standard method used in cognitive and motor neuroscience. See below for a funny video.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJtNPqCj-iA

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcranial_magnetic_stimulation

  2. WebMiner said...

    So if you are fellow of ASME and then they find you wrote your seminal papers under electric or magnetic brain stimulation, are you disqualified for doping? Oh wait, with five mobile towers around campus...

  3. GT Brown said...

    These are also interesting links:

    http://www.gwern.net/Nootropics

    http://www.gwern.net/DNB%20FAQ

    Pramiracetam + choline + dual n-back ... ummmm

  4. bwl said...

    Marvelous…..
    bangalorewithlove.com

  5. Raj said...

    The author wonder if Tiger Moms would use for piano practice. I don't have any doubt that if this is commercially available, they would be a hit with indian parents with kids who are preparing for entrance exams.

  6. James Fugedy said...

    There are over 600 published scientific articles utilizing tDCS. I have personally used tDCS to effectively treat refractory chronic pain, migraine, depression and enhance cognitive functioning. tDCS also improves recovery from stroke, and preliminary studies demonstrate benefit for ADD, autism and the addictions. The ability to enhance learning allows the individual to glean the most from study. The low cost of tDCS provides universal availability, an important consideration. tDCS is effective, inexpensive and without side effects. More studies need to be done before tDCS can be safely utilized to enhance learning, but I believe tDCS will prove to be a game changer. Actually, it already is for chronic pain and depression.