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Electric Brain Stimulation to Improve Driving Skills

Sep 4, 2008
Can electric brain stimulation make a person a better driver? That's the question that researchers wanted to find out when they performed a recent brain stimulation test. Transcranial direct current stimulation tDCS is a way of non-invasively stimulating the cortex of the brain with small amounts of electricity. Basically researchers attach two small sponge electrode on your head and allow a very small current to pass through. This method of stimulating the brain has very few side effects. The sponge electrode connected to the anode excites brain activity. The researchers for this particular experiment targeted an area of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and excited it with electrical stimulation. Doing this increases activation of that specific brain area.

The DLPFC is commonly associated with a person's executive functioning (attention, motivation, planning etc.). People who have low activity in this area of the brain are more impulsive and are likely to make riskier decisions. By selectively increasing activity in this area scientists can reduce a person's risk taking activity. The researchers applied tDCS for approximately 15 minutes to increase activity there. The subject's were fully awake and conscious as this procedure went forward. It is a very painless and safe method of brain manipulation.

The researchers then tested the subjects in a virtual reality driving game. They found that when the DLPFC is stimulating it leads to more careful driving for the participants of the study. This shows that stimulating this area of the brain can make a person more cautious and potentially a better driver as they are less willing to take any risks. There are a variety of risk taking behaviors that may be reduced with this new treatment. This technology may eventually be used on those who are addicted to drugs when applied over the same area.

Overall this technology brings up all sorts of interesting questions. Will bad drivers in the future be required to undergo a round of brain stimulation if they get a ticket? Could this be used as a form of mind control to keep people from doing risky things that the government didn't want. I think that tDCS as a method of brain stimulation will certainly find increasing use in the future. Not only will it be used to improve brain disorders but it may be used for cosmetic personality changes as well.
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