A group of forward-thinking military scientists want to plug
soldiers’ weapons directly into their brains, and this time DARPA is
nowhere to be found. The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of
scientific thought, issued a report today on the applications of neuroscience in the military and law enforcement
contexts. Discussed therein: new performance-enhancing designer drugs,
brain stimulation to boost brain function, and weapons systems that plug
directly into the brain.
The wide-ranging document reportedly covers a lot of ground,
including the ethical issues surrounding the use of neuroscience in
defense. It seems to focus less on ways to impact the enemy directly,
and more on the enhancement of soldiers’ fighting abilities--though
neurological drugs that make enemy captives more talkative or perhaps
cause enemy troops fall asleep or become disoriented also get a mention.
Of particular interest in the document: transcranial direct current
stimulation, or tDCS. The idea of passing electrical signals through the
skull to the brain to boost performance isn’t new to U.S. defense
dreamers, as the U.S. military has already done tests on the technology
(and found it helpful in improving soldiers’ abilities to detect
threats). A battle helmet that can pass weak electrical pulses through
the brain could sharpen a soldier’s mind, the report suggests, upping
attention spans and memory as well as attention to detail.