For years, military forces around the world have been exploring new ways to overcome sleep deprivation and ways to keep the troops focused for longer periods of time. To prevent fatigue and associated degradation of performance, they normally rely on caffeine fixes such as coffee and energy drinks, which aren’t sustainable and wear off quickly.
The Pentagon is however working on an unorthodox solution to this problem. Researchers are testing whether low-level electric shocks can help in keeping troops awake. This sort of shock therapy is different from that given in past for treating the mentally ill. With this new method, researchers are experimenting by running light doses of electrical currents through specific regions of the brain. The main goal is to improve alertness in soldiers, especially those who spend hours monitoring surveillance footage from drones and other sources.
In recent tests conducted at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a few dozen volunteer research subjects were given controlled doses of electrical currents to the brain while some were dosed with caffeine. After 30 hours of being kept awake, researchers compared both groups and found those who were given electrical stimulation reported “feeling refreshed” and performed roughly twice as better.
Although the Air Force Research Laboratory has conducted some studies on this technology, there are still many questions to be answered, especially concerning any long-term effects.