science!

Better Gaming Through...Batteries?

by Adam Biessener on Apr 16, 2011 at 02:01 PM

A scientific study found that players picked up a video game faster with a 9-volt battery strapped to their heads. Yes, we're serious. No, don't try this at home.

An extensive article in Nature describes the experiment, in which subjects had a wet sponge conducting a trickle of electricity from a 9V battery to their brains while playing DARWARS Ambush!, a video game used by the U.S. Army to train soldiers. The experimental group showed twice as much improvement at the game in a given timeframe relative to a non-battery-enhanced control group.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (yes, the same government initiative that more or less invented the Internet) funded the research, which hopes to develop new techniques to train soldiers more effectively. Should this advance past the experimental stage, though, it would obviously have much wider implications than chopping a week off of basic training.

Applying a trickle current to the brain in this manner is called transcranial direct-current stimulation, or tDCS. Through the magic of science, it can make neurons more responsive to messages being transmitted from other parts of the brain. It may not make you smarter, but the experiment suggest that it may make your brain more efficient.

GLaDOS would be proud. This is SCIENCE in gonzo all-caps. I need more technology that enhances my already bountiful natural gifts.

As fascinating as this is, seriously do not apply electricity to your own or anyone else's brain. Unless you're one of our many neurological researcher readers, anyway. No, your ordination as Grand Master Brain Wizard from the Universal Life Church doesn't count.

[Thanks to GI community member andrew for the news tip!]