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Another Tidbit About tDCS (I Am A Visionary!)

March 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm

A few weeks ago, I posted about current (heh) research into tDCS, transcranial direct current stimulation.  Soon after that, while at Boskone, I had a nice chat with my friends Tom and Linda Porter  (Hi Tom, Hi Linda!)  We got to talking about tDCS, which, not surprisingly, is a topic I find rather interesting.  They had seen a writeup in the Washington Post, a version of the New Scientist article I'd linked to.

Tom and Linda were kind enough to provide me with the newspaper clipping ("Trying a 9-volt shortcut to expertise", pg E4, Tuesday, February 14, 2012).  And am I grateful for their generosity—while reading the newspaper article I ran across a fantastic detail that I'd completely missed in the New Scientist article.

I've mentioned the basic idea behind tDCS a few times, so by now it's probably familiar: connecting electrodes to somebody's head, and using direct-current stimulation of special regions of the brain to improve performance at particular tasks.  (Or should we say that connecting a battery to somebody's brain can give them heightened abilities.)  There is apparently a small but growing home hobbyist movement, but far more interesting to me is the fact that some of this research is funded by DARPA.

Or in other words, and as I've said before, "tDCS" is clearly DARPA-speak for Götterelektrongruppe.

And speaking of which, here's the detail that I overlooked in the original article.  The reporter, Sally Adee, describes her experience undergoing tDCS.  When the current is turned on, she says:

Initially, there is a slight tingle, and suddenly my mouth tastes like I've just licked the inside of an aluminum can.

[Emphasis mine.] 

Okay, granted, in the Milkweed books I described the taste as that of copper rather than aluminum.  But HOLY COW, amiright?

They are so going to create supersoldiers with this technology.  Just wait and see.  Sure, right now they're starting small, such as by improving the concentration and mental focus of military snipers.  But how long before they graduate to invisibility and telekinesis?

Comments

Tengland March 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm
The March issue of Wired has an article about a pill that will erase specific memories but leave others alone. While not batteries and wires attached to the brain, What happens is, they'll zap the brain to heighten abilities, then give you a pill to make you forget anyone did any such thing.
Steve Halter March 4, 2012 at 10:40 pm
The aluminum taste indicates the reporter is getting no super powers. It's all in just where the electrodes are placed. Just a bit to the left and she would have tasted maple syrup. Seriously, though I think we will be seeing some very interesting developments in the next few years, Changes are accelerating.
Ian March 5, 2012 at 9:35 am
Terry, I'm worried that somebody has been slipping those pills into my food for years. Who are you again? Your explanation makes perfect sense, Steve. They need to refine the technique a little bit. They need to have the subject call out the particular metal she/he tastes as they move the electrodes around. Aluminum = no superpower. Copper = superpower. Lead = blood poisoning. Iron = sudden affinity for raisins. The list is endless, really.
Melinda March 5, 2012 at 10:26 am
This is just so cool. It's like you're psychic or something. Or just way more cutting edge then the rest of us. :)
Ian March 5, 2012 at 10:46 am
As I always say: it's better to be lucky than good ;-)
E J Frost March 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm
You're prescient, Ian! Which I always knew, actually. And yes, it is just a step to super soldiers. A totally, bloody inevitable step. On a totally other topic, I saw your updates on Goodreads. Have you read "Boneshaker"? It's on my pile to read but I keep picking up something else first. Just wondering if you've read it and whether it was better steampunk than seminal Jeter?
Ian March 5, 2012 at 2:50 pm
You were prescient about my prescience, then... I haven't had the pleasure of reading Boneshaker yet. I admit I'm a little leery of zombie stuff, but that's just a personal reading preference. However, Cherie Priest joined Wild Cards a few years ago, and her contribution to Fort Freak was absolutely stellar-- it's one of the all-time strongest WC novels, thanks largely to the skeleton that she provided in her story. So I expect Boneshaker is prolly boffo.
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