US Air Force tests handheld nerve-stimulating device to zap tired soldiers into alertness

Originally published at: US Air Force tests handheld nerve-stimulating device to zap tired soldiers into alertness | Boing Boing


I guess that’s better than the amphetamines they give them now?


Now that it’s approved for migraines, can it be prescribed off-label for recreational use? Asking for a sleepy friend.

[I was Dr. Nick for Hallowe’en once. Whenever I entered I room I’d say “HI EVERYBODY!” and they’d all respond “HI DR. NICK!”]


Oh ******** of a ********ing **********.

what could go wrong? Especially if applied to heavily-armed people.


And how does it work on unwilling workers in slavery conditions? (Or just set the conditions so that there are dis-incentives for workers not being above average.)


Self induced electro shock therapy? No thank you…


I think they will find better performance if they train more people for the job, and force people t work less hours.


I wonder if this has any application as an ADHD treatment. I take 12 hour amphetamines for mine, and I’d rather, y’know, not. Seems like this has a similar length of effectiveness, and is being used to replace similar drugs, albeit used for a different purpose.

Much as I hate the military industrial complex, this could potentially be a good thing. It’d be nice to live in a society where we can fund projects designed to help people instead of throwing all the money at making a killing force more and more effective, but I’ll take what I can get for now and hope the tech crosses over into medical trials for civilian use.


Coming to Amazon:

“Okay everyone, before you leave for the day please line up for your mandatory vagus nerve stimulation. We need you cheerful when you come back in 12 hours”

(Just kidding. They wouldn’t say please).


Much as I don’t like this tech being used for military purposes either, I really don’t like this take. For one thing, this isn’t electrical stimulation to the pleasure centers of the brain, so the comparison to addictive substances seems fragile. More importantly though, we already have brain implants that stimulate areas that are typically receptors for dopamine, which is considered to be a reward neurotransmitter. It’s called Deep Brain Stimulation, and it’s a very effective treatment for Parkinsons tremors, as well as a few other things. So the leap from electrical stimulation to wireheading feels a little gross to me, given the thing we have that’s closest to wireheading is a hugely beneficial and effective medical procedure.

Again, I see a lot of problems with this device and its proposed use. I’m not trying to argue that this is a good thing, at least for use on soldiers, but I think this specific objection you’ve made is one to reconsider.

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There could be a lot of beneficial applications this, but “the street military/industrial dystopia finds its own uses for things”. (The street will be along later. How well does this mix with party drugs?)

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They are working on it. Curious what the long term effect is. Organized Lightning: The Future is Now for ADHD | Psychology Today Canada

there’s also this: Study Finds Electromagnetic Fields May Increase Risk of Alzheimer's - USC News A lot of EMF panic was overstated, and this may be more observational rather than proving it was EMF directly. Hearing loss is also associated with dementia, not sure if they controlled for that.

The vagus nerve has little if anything to do with the pleasure centers.
It’s seems, from what is known, to be a feed back channel from the body to the brain.

If/when you engage in a thing sometimes called box breathing (in through the nose for a slow count of four, hold for a slow count of four, out through the mouth for a slow count of four, hold for a slow count of four. repeat), the sensations induced in the body are passed via the vagus nerve pathway to tell the brain things are OK allowing some degree of calming and anxiety relief.

It doesn’t make anxiety go away, just some mild mitigation. I call it a neat parlor trick.

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Reminds me of a time in HS physics class. One of my classmates was having a really hard time staying awake, and he wasn’t subtle about it. The physics teacher had an old army field telephone with the wires exposed. He handed two of the leads to my somnolent buddy and asked the guy sitting one chair over to give the phone a few fast cranks. My friend instantly became awake and was attentive for the rest of the day - “wired” indeed.

Pretty sure the teacher would be fired for that kind of thing these days, but we loved him for it.


Why would they test this on airmen when us moms exist and will try it for free? Let’s see if it works on my 39 year old chronically tired ass instead of some 19 year old.

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Absolutely I agree there’s a lot of disturbing potential applications for this. I’d say most of my concerns lie in its intended use of making humans do things humans aren’t built to do, which could have any number of physiological or psychological effects on soldiers if used as a performance enhancer. I just intensely dislike the immediate leap into cyberpunk brain mod panic, especially when there’s ablest undertones.

@bferrell Exactly, which is why comparing it to brain implants that are supposed to trigger pleasure responses seen in fiction is inappropriate. Deep Brain Stimulation, by contrast, affects several areas of the brain, but largely compensates for the loss of dopamine producing cells in the basil ganglia. Dopamine feedback is part of the body’s reward system, which makes it vital for motor learning, which is why patients with Parkinson’s disease often have motor control issues. Deep Brain Stimulation doesn’t cause physical feelings of pleasure, but helps manage some of the motor areas that are affected by the lack of dopamine. Which is why I also don’t like the “wirehead” take. Real life wirehead tech is literally life saving.


Sleepy time. :slight_smile:

Just feed them modafinil. It for all intents and purposes obviates the need for sleep.

I’ve gone 48 hours awake on modafinil and didn’t even feel bad.

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