Transcranial direct current stimulation can make your brain work better. DARPA proved it can make you better at video games, the US Air Force has shown it cuts drone remote-pilot training in half, and Harvard researchers have used it to treat depression. So what is this magical device that powerfully manipulates your brain function?
It's not much more than a battery and a bunch of wires.
But that doesn't mean that you should try it at home. In fact, do not try this at home.
Though no one so far has reported seizures or other negative effects, sending any amount of electricity into your brain without the supervision of a medical professional is not the best idea.
That all said, it's shockingly easy to build a transcranial direct current stimulator, or tDCS, just like the one used in all of those experiments. Apparently the concept requires a 9-volt battery hooked up to some kind of resistor — (one DIYer used a Radio Shack Electronics Learning Lab) — and electrodes, which can be purchased on eBay.
Why hasn't anyone developed a product one could buy so we don't have to McGyver our own? Scientific American's blog today discusses the ethics of a so-called "electrical thinking cap". Would it be fair? Would parents be weirdly manipulating their kids' brains? Would it be like electronic brain doping?
Maybe the explanation is simpler. Maybe no one sees a profit in something that any middle-school science student could build for 10 bucks? Sure, you could maybe buy the one the Harvard researchers used, but it's really intended for clinics and costs close to $US1000. So where's the consumer version?
I can imagine folks paying for something that's beautifully designed, painless (which apparently it is for the most part, minus some discomfort getting the thing to adhere to your head, depending on how much hair you have), and makes you smarter. Better yet, it sounds like a great app! Can one of you Y combinator kids get on that please? [Scientific American]