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Games Technology

A 9V Battery To Your Brain Can Improve Your Gaming 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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A 9V Battery To Your Brain Can Improve Your Gaming

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  • Not just for gaming (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tet ( 2721 ) <slashdot AT astradyne DOT co DOT uk> on Sunday April 17, 2011 @01:11PM (#35848688) Homepage Journal

    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?"

    • 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.

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

        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...

    • 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?

      • by Anonymous Coward

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

  • Is that the preferred way of saying percentages in the US?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • 9V? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If 9V is good, 90V must be ten times as good!

    • Think about what can happen when you go over 9000
    • my brain stimulator goes up to 11 </spinal tap>
    • Just use a car battery witht a reverse transformer. High portability, high performance and fraction of its cost (as compare with capacity, not per unit. Car batteries capacity per dollar is much greater than 9V batteries, as lead acid battery is cheaper than alkaline.)

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @01:23PM (#35848750) Homepage

    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.

  • 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.

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

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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?

    • Sorry, meant to say it assumes a 100V signal (100V x 2mA = 200mW, or 1/500 of 100W)
    • 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.
    • What about in BTU/coulomb?
    • by lgftsa ( 617184 )

      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.

      • 9V is not enough to pass through skin,

        Well, any amount of voltage will "pass" through any amount of skin. The question is, how much current will flow.

        Grab a couple of ohmmeter probes and squeeze as hard as you can, and you can probably get the reading down to about 20K ohms from one hand to the other. With saltwater-moistened electrodes a few inches apart, I could imagine 5K-10K would be achievable. At 9K ohms, 9 volts will cause a 1 mA current to flow, which is the same amount being discussed here.

        So no

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17, 2011 @01:41PM (#35848870)

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

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

    • No sir, my cables are zero oxygen pure gold. For only 3x the price of yours!
    • by porl ( 932021 )

      that's good news. i for one refuse to allow that pesky oxygen anywhere near my brain. put me down for a few sets, just in case.

  • by LittleBigScript ( 618162 ) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @01:43PM (#35848892) Homepage Journal

    Let me get my thinking cap.


  • by CODiNE ( 27417 ) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @01:44PM (#35848900) Homepage
  • 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 . . .

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Releasing oxygen & hydrogen. Just watch out so your head doesn't explode.
  • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @01:58PM (#35849004) Homepage

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

  • I'm sorry, but that's just Crazy []!

  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward

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

  • Hackers! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Memroid ( 898199 ) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @02:06PM (#35849040)
    I wonder when the 9V bug/feature will be added for the Valve Anti-Cheat System..
  • by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Sunday April 17, 2011 @02:21PM (#35849162) Homepage

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

  • Ughh (Score:3, Informative)

    by ModernGeek ( 601932 ) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @02:28PM (#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.
    • 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 (Score:5, Informative)

      by subreality ( 157447 ) on Sunday April 17, 2011 @06:13PM (#35850638)

      A quick lesson in electrical safety:

      Current is what will kill you, not voltage. Greater current causes greater voltage gradients inside of you, which will disrupt neurons more and increase power dissipation, burning things. Higher voltage is more dangerous because it increases current. Decreasing resistance also increases the current. Your skin is a pretty good insulator, but if you poke wires in deep enough that they reach the wet bits that protection is lost and the current will spike way up.

      Here are some measurements on myself:
      2.5M ohm Probes pinched in my fingers of left and right hands
      500K ohm After licking fingertips
      1M ohm Across my scalp
      50K ohm Across my tongue

      A 9V battery isn't going to come anywhere near 2mA with any of those contacts. For anyone who wants to try wiring up their brain, though, I suggest putting a 4.7K resistor in series with the 9V battery - the added resistance is insignificant next to your skin, but when you accidentally stab the electrodes straight through your skull and into your brain it'll limit the current to safe levels.

      I also suggest that a 9V battery is worthless because of the resistance of your skin. If you want this to actually work you should use a much higher voltage (such as stepping that 9V up with an oscillator driving a transformer) and a much larger value of protection resistor (Ohm's Law []), to better approximate a constant-current source. A constant-current power supply is even better. Note that above 300V you're running a risk of dielectric breakdown [] in your skin - IE, the resistance suddenly drops - and the current will surge. You'd better have a protection resistor that can save you from the highest possible open circuit voltage of whatever power supply you use.

      Start low and work your way up. 1mA is enough to put you in v-fib [] if it's direct to the heart. Of course, anything applied to the skin will spread out considerably before it reaches your heart - it's more like 50mA to the skin directly across the chest to induce v-fib - but it's best to have a healthy respect for what you're doing.

  • This is old news ( ref. Donald Duck pocket books ) []

  • 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.
  • some people are AC, some DC, and some like AC/DC.
  • ... 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?

  • Am I the only one that thinks 0.002 Watt x 500 does not make 100 Watt?
  • Am I the only one that was expecting to see this after clicking that link? []

When you are working hard, get up and retch every so often.