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A 9V Battery To Your Brain Can Improve Your Gaming

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the needs-an-instructables-page dept.

Games 167

autospa writes with an intriguing story found at Nature about direct electrical stimulation's effect on the brain. By applying low levels of electrical current to different parts of the brain via electrodes placed on the scalp, University of New Mexico researchers claim to have documented some significant changes in brain activity, which vary depending on the part of the brain targeted. Gamers, take note: in one experiment in which volunteers were recorded while playing a video war game, "those receiving 2 milliamps to the scalp (about one-five-hundredth the amount drawn by a 100-watt light bulb) showed twice as much improvement in the game after a short amount of training as those receiving one-twentieth the amount of current." The idea of affecting the brain by electric stimulation isn't new; but the battery-powered, non-invasive variety naturally leads some people to consider rolling their own.

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167 comments

E fricking Meter No fucking joke. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35848636)

You fucking idiots.

Cancer! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35848644)

Just wait. In a few years there will be another study that suggests that this causes cancer.

It's all fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35848646)

until it begins to wear down your brain and you get Alzheimer's at 30.

Re:It's all fun (3, Interesting)

comm3c (670264) | about 3 years ago | (#35848978)

until it begins to wear down your brain and you get Alzheimer's at 30

Good point. I don't think we understand enough about the electrical operation of the brain to be jumping for this. If I had to make a comparison, we can turn up the clock rate on an oscillator, but it doesn't mean that the device relying on the clock can handle it without some strange, sudden and premature failure.

Re:It's all fun (4, Insightful)

derGoldstein (1494129) | about 3 years ago | (#35849092)

Another analogy is passing current through frog legs. You can see the effect, and deduce that there's a correlation between the current and the resulting motion, but it doesn't mean you know why or what the underlying mechanism is.

If anything, this seems quite hazardous. Our bodies are designed (ahem -- naturally selected) to defend themselves from much of what's found in nature, which probably doesn't include running even very small amounts of current through our brains. The fact that the brain is encased in a solid shell in mammals should give an idea of how vulnerable it really is. This experiment bypasses that defense and introduces stimuli that you almost certainly won't find in nature. We already know that introducing a tiny amount of arsenic into the bloodstream will kill most (almost all) living things, so we're weary of chemical experimentation, but we haven't been messing around with the brain long enough to know what the effects of electrical stimulation will be.

It could induce brain cancer for all we know. I personally wouldn't go volunteering for this type of experimentation.

Re:It's all fun (2)

Razed By TV (730353) | about 3 years ago | (#35850086)

In one study done in a prison, none of the inmates in the test group developed brain cancer after having their heads exposed to a high voltage.

Re:It's all fun (0)

Joce640k (829181) | about 3 years ago | (#35849564)

It's just overclocking for your brain...some people get away with it for years, others get blue screens

New "Head-Gear" product! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35848682)

A Potentiometer with a 9v attached to your head!!

Re:New "Head-Gear" product! (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | about 3 years ago | (#35849166)

I was thinking more along the lines of a function-generator. The amount of current isn't the only factor here -- there's also frequency and waveform to take into account. And what about polarity? Also, how to do pick where to pass the current through? We should probably ask this guy [businessinsider.com] .

What could possibly go wrong? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35848684)

"2 milliamps to the scalp (about one-five-hundredth the amount drawn by a 100-watt light bulb"

And really, who hasn't stuck their scalp in a light socket? This must be completely safe.

Not just for gaming (3, Interesting)

Tet (2721) | about 3 years ago | (#35848688)

Sod computer gaming. My first through when reading this was "can I fit it inside my race helmet and improve my performance in real life?"

Re:Not just for gaming (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 3 years ago | (#35848796)

And what would happen in the event of an epileptic seizure caused by this? Do you really want to be on a crotch-rocket then? It's not like you can simply drop the controller, but you would a bike for sure.

Re:Not just for gaming (5, Informative)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about 3 years ago | (#35848956)

Apparently there is no risk of seizure, because the current does not trigger neuron activity (page 2) [technologyreview.com] :

Very little is known about how TDCS works. Scientists theorize that the mild current primes the neurons for action but does not trigger the voltage spikes that neurons use to communicate. "Presumably, it is polarizing neurons and making them more or less likely to respond to inputs," says Warren Grill, a neural engineer at Duke University, in Durham, NC. "But what's happening at the level of the synapse, where the business of learning really takes place, we don't know."

Of course, given the opening sentence to that paragraph, it's probably not something you'd want to play with at home...

Re:Not just for gaming (1)

stms (1132653) | about 3 years ago | (#35848804)

My first thought was I bet they'll start integrating this into gaming headsets.

Re:Not just for gaming (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 3 years ago | (#35848858)

Sod computer gaming. My first through when reading this was "can I fit it inside my race helmet and improve my performance in real life?"

Wouldn't it be easier to just use the unlimited-blue-shells cheat code?

Re:Not just for gaming (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35848886)

Well, there is a lot of crappy equipment that has faulty grounding, are they saying now, that it's a feature?

Re:Not just for gaming (1, Funny)

zephvark (1812804) | about 3 years ago | (#35850094)

[quote]My first through when reading this[/quote] You can't afford to risk losing another single brain cell.

one-five-hundredth (0.2%), one-twentieth (5%) (1)

blai (1380673) | about 3 years ago | (#35848710)

Is that the preferred way of saying percentages in the US?

Re:one-five-hundredth (0.2%), one-twentieth (5%) (1)

mcavic (2007672) | about 3 years ago | (#35848776)

Is that the preferred way of saying percentages in the US?

No, it's not.

Re:one-five-hundredth (0.2%), one-twentieth (5%) (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35848778)

They're called fractions. Believe it or not, other countries have them too.

Re:one-five-hundredth (0.2%), one-twentieth (5%) (1)

oliverthered (187439) | about 3 years ago | (#35848820)

in some fractions of society they base line with the lowest common denominator.

Re:one-five-hundredth (0.2%), one-twentieth (5%) (3, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 years ago | (#35849966)

Nope, but the U.S. bias was in assuming the 100W bulb was connected to 110-120VAC mains, instead of the planet's more common 220-240VAC mains

good old electroshock (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35848732)

I think that the good old electroshock is seeing a renaissance these days.
Maybe smaller, more targeted currents will be helpful for depression.
I don't care about improving my "gaming", but I would not mind some help with my depression that would not involve fucking up my brain chemistry.

Oh no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35848746)

Now it's Electrical Doping. I'm shocked.

I wonder if this guy [youtube.com] plays Quake better than me. That might explain my recent low performance.

Alvie

Well, not... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35849050)

I'm shocked.

Not at this voltage.

2ma doubles your score? (5, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | about 3 years ago | (#35848750)

An alligator clip on each ear and plug into the wall! Score x1000!

Wear gloves, though. You don't want any of the juice to leak into your computer.

Meth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35848836)

I found that a big rock of crystal meth made me stay up a WHOLE FUCKING WEEK!

Re:2ma doubles your score? (1)

Jeek Elemental (976426) | about 3 years ago | (#35849148)

that wont work, its AC. youll get 1 half period of smarts and then 1 half of stupid.

Re:2ma doubles your score? (2)

_133MHz (1556101) | about 3 years ago | (#35849736)

put in a rectifier diode in line, only lets the smarts through!
or better yet, a bridge rectifier turns the stupid into smarts!

Re:2ma doubles your score? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35850264)

or better yet, a bridge rectifier turns the stupid into smarts!

I don't care how smart it makes you, ain't nobody going to stick any probe (electrical or otherwise) near my rectum!

Oh Gawd (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | about 3 years ago | (#35848760)

Guess we will start seeing this along with the prescription spam emails... And stories of some kid with seizures because they actually made/used such a contraption.

virtual war (1)

oliverthered (187439) | about 3 years ago | (#35848766)

I've found having a loaded gun and the potential for someone shooting you improves real world performance.

Re:virtual war (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35848826)

The CIA has been applying electricity to improve memory for years. They usually use higher voltages tho.

Re:virtual war (1)

oliverthered (187439) | about 3 years ago | (#35849164)

the state penitentiary has been applying even higher voltages to help people forget for years.

Re:virtual war (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35849852)

Though, in this case, the people they are helping aren't receiving the voltage...

Gah, Mixed Units! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35848788)

500 times 2mA is 1A. 100W is only ~1A because US line current is around 110-120 volts (W = V X A). 2mA could be any number of watts, depending on the voltage. In order for 2mA to be 1/500 of 100W, it assumes a 1V signal (1V x 2mA = 2mW). If they're using 10V, it would be a 20mW, or 1/50th of a 100W bulb.

Bad science reporting strikes again! How big are those electrodes, measured in school bues?

Re:Gah, Mixed Units! (1)

kvvbassboy (2010962) | about 3 years ago | (#35848898)

It doesn't matter. P = I^2 * R, where R is the resistance of the brain. As long as the current is regulated by adding a load in series, the report is fine.

Re:Gah, Mixed Units! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35849082)

From TFA:

"The electrodes have an area of 0.2 LoC^2."

Re:Gah, Mixed Units! (2)

lgftsa (617184) | about 3 years ago | (#35850262)

No assumptions necessary. 9V is not enough to pass through skin, so the headline is obviously a throwaway line added later.

We know the power: 1/500 of 100W is 0.2W

We know the current: 0.002A

The voltage can be calculated as E = P/I = 0.2/0.002 = 100V

100V is enough to pass through some skin, especially that of the scalp.

Battery-shortage due to Koreans (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35848870)

Maybe they'll reach 400 Actions Per Minute with this.

Feng shui mentalist cables required... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35848876)

The benefit of these mental stimulation devices will be maximized if you use my special synergistic low oxygen pure copper cables, which ensure that the feng shui energy flow in the yin direction and will not cause eddies in the yang.

Re:Feng shui mentalist cables required... (1)

trapnest (1608791) | about 3 years ago | (#35849898)

No sir, my cables are zero oxygen pure gold. For only 3x the price of yours!

Hook up the house electricity to the gamer's balls (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 3 years ago | (#35848924)

You want a hyped up, aggressive gamer? Take that approach instead . . . he will vanquish everyone in every game . . . but he might kill you, as well.

9 volts to the scalp? What a puny plan! Go for the full stuff, out of the socket in the wall, right on the family jewels!

It might even work to get that son out of the basement . . .

Electrolysis? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35848988)

Releasing oxygen & hydrogen. Just watch out so your head doesn't explode.

Compatibility? (3, Funny)

Jeremi (14640) | about 3 years ago | (#35849004)

Can I plug the battery in to my tin foil hat directly, or will I need some sort of adapter?

Re:Compatibility? (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#35849138)

Can I plug the battery in to my tin foil hat directly, or will I need some sort of adapter?

This would seem to be a classic call for duct tape.

And possible realistic sound effects? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35849022)

like gun shots? http://johnbokma.com/mexit/2007/06/22/exploding-9v-duracell-alkaline-battery.html

Ringworld (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35849024)

This is going to a bad place....

ah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35849028)

Hmm.
If stimulating brain to work better is that easy
Then that would have been very very profitable.
But i don't believe that it's just as easy as using few
electrodes and applying low voltages to out part of brain!!!!!

regards,
Math dictionary [freemathdictionary.com]

Isn't that just electroshock therapy? (2)

mark-t (151149) | about 3 years ago | (#35849036)

Sure it can make a difference in bran functions.... that's why they always used to use it. But it sure as heck isn't good for you. That's why they banned it.

Oops, typo! (2)

mark-t (151149) | about 3 years ago | (#35849046)

Brain ! Damnit! Not "bran" Argh... I really need to remember to hit preview before submitting.

Re:Oops, typo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35849236)

Sounds like you could use a brain-battery!

Overclocking the brain (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35849038)

Directly inducing electrical current makes it "easier" for the neurons to fire.
The long-term effects of this would likely dampen normal experiences.

Put that in your FSB and smoke it (3, Funny)

billcopc (196330) | about 3 years ago | (#35849162)

DUH! It's common knowledge that bumping up vCore allows for higher clocks :)

Very interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35849186)

The relation of brain state to gaming performance (or performance in general) is very interesting.

Most people who play games somewhat often, have noticed that they have "good days" or "bad days".

Some days you make head shots and shoot people in the back all the time, some days it's the other way around.

It's really about different states of the mind. Something called alpha state, beta state etc, but i haven't explorer it further.

The Good State:
No itching feelings on the body.
Complete bodily comfort.
Mouse movement is very fast and precise
You read your opponent better and faster.
You make more extensive and creative reactions to your oppononts reactions.

The Bad State:
Constant or often need of scratching yourself somewhere.
Annoyance in limbs.
Mousepad friction seems more annoying.
Things happen on screen before you can react.
Slower, less precise mouse movement.
Harder time multitasking.

Most people who does a competitive sport or other repetetive hobby can probably nod in agreement to the above.

It's a huge modifier on your score. If you're playing an equally skilled opponent, it's what determines the outcome.

Affecting how the brain performs like this is interesting.

Ughh (2, Informative)

ModernGeek (601932) | about 3 years ago | (#35849228)

I'd hope that the people of slashdot would not be dumb enough to try this. You can KILL yourself with 9 VOLT BATTERY if you go through the skin. I would suggest that the editor note this in the summary. Telling, or even hinting at a crowd, especially tinkerers, to attempt such a thing is negligence. Sorry bloggers, but a "I'm not responsible" tag somewhere on the site doesn't actually make you not responsible, otherwise BP would have done that on all their rigs.

Re:Ughh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35849374)

And nothing valuable was lost. And I'm one up in traffic in the morning.

Repeat after me "slashdot is not my nanny. Even if it were my nanny I cannot expect it to be for everyone else, however much I might want it to."

Followed by a few verses of "Safety comes from more information, not less"

Ughh indeed.

The secret is to keep banging the rocks together.

Re:Ughh (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 3 years ago | (#35849388)

Talking about something that is dangerous or illegal and offering a warning is a far cry from doing something that is dangerous or illegal and offering a warning. The former is likely foolish but not harmful in and of items, whereas the latter is both foolish and harmful. I agree with your general point, but using BP as your example was a poor choice.

Re:Ughh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35849510)

Maybe this is a new feature in Slashdot's moderation system where they slip in story's with silly but lethal consequences to weed out the bad ones.

Today 50 comments, tomorrow there will be only "first post".

Re:Ughh (2)

anethema (99553) | about 3 years ago | (#35849920)

3 replies and no pointers to the fact of how absurd it is to point out that you can kill yourself with a 9v battery?

Maybe with a massive amount of autotransformation to get it up to 20 volts and running it through your brain directly, but come on.

Like one of the misinformed people who are afraid to work on their cars 12v system because it can push "1000 amps OMG!". Just a clear misunderstanding of how electricity works.

Re:Ughh (1)

polymeris (902231) | about 3 years ago | (#35850310)

Like one of the misinformed people who are afraid to work on their cars 12v system because it can push "1000 amps OMG!". Just a clear misunderstanding of how electricity works.

The danger is not of electrocution, but in the sparks it can generate, combined with gas leaks or hydrogen buildup.
That is not considering batteries are full of Lead and H2SO4, of course.

Re:Ughh (1)

ModernGeek (601932) | about 3 years ago | (#35850332)

You're an idiot and know nothing about electricity. If you were to remove your skin, your body has little resistance. You can touch up to about 40 volts without it going through your skin, which is why I would like to assume that this report is pure pseudo science. If you give yourself enough voltage to go through the skin (40+ Volts), or bypass the skin by using probes that go into the skin ( less than 1 Volt ), you are pushing enough current through your body to stop the heart. It only takes milliamps to put your heart into fibrillation.

Telling a bunch of people who know nothing about electricity to start trying to push current through their skulls is a horrible idea, and an irresponsible move both on the part of Slashdot, and the author of this publication.

Re:Ughh (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35849990)

Oh, come on, don't be a pussy!
And a 9V battery is nothing, real men would try it with a car battery...

Customers who bought.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35849270)

The new TurboCharged Bawls 9V DECIMATOR battery also bought Razr Asp Electrode Pack.

Bad news waiting to happen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35849346)

IANA neuroscientist, but surely we don't know enough about the brain to know that this is safe? Clearly the brain is incredibly fragile, but unlike a motherboard or whatever you can't just go out and buy a new one if you fry it. Short term gains aren't worth the possible damage we could do in the long run. Of course I don't *know* that it's dangerous, but I really don't want to take the risk!

Drill Sergeants take note (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 3 years ago | (#35849662)

Electrically stimulating your five foot tall, doe-eyed, sacks of human waste by taping a 9-volt battery to their newly shaved heads won't have the same effect.

If 9 volts is good... (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 3 years ago | (#35849942)

... would 12 volts be better? Maybe, maybe not, but that is what some may think.

.
I do not see all this ending up in a good place.

I seriously wonder why it is being suggested to apply voltage to one's brain?

Wrong math. (1)

jovetoo (629494) | about 3 years ago | (#35850002)

Am I the only one that thinks 0.002 Watt x 500 does not make 100 Watt?

Re:Wrong math. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35850066)

Am I the only one that thinks 0.002 Watt x 500 does not make 100 Watt?

Yes. Watts aren't Amps.

Re:Wrong math. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35850148)

Am I the only one that thinks 0.002 Watt x 500 does not make 100 Watt?

Well 100W at 9V = 11.11111111111111 Amps of current, and this uses 2 milliamps, which if you do 11 / 500 you get 0.022 amps, which is 22 miliamps, which is one 500th of a 100W bulb at 9V. Not exactly 2 miliamps but still, not exactly a massive amount!

Re:Wrong units. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35850324)

Wong units.

0.002A not 0.002W. It is current not wattage.

0.002A x 500 x 120V = 120W

Re:Wrong math. (1)

kundziad (1198601) | about 3 years ago | (#35850328)

0.002 Amperes * 500 = 1 A, presumably what a standard light bulb draws (at 100 Volts). DC Power = voltage * current
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