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DARPA Investing In Electric Brain Stimulation To Train Snipers Quickly 124

Posted by samzenpus
from the heightened-reflexes-II dept.
New submitter Morganth writes "According to New Scientist, researchers at DARPA are investing efforts in transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) machines to cut the time it takes to train snipers. From the article: 'a 2-milliamp current will run through the part of the brain associated with object recognition — an important skill when visually combing a scene for assailants.' The story also gives a nice explanation on the psychology of 'flow' — the state that experts tend to enter (e.g. programmers, tennis players, pianists) when focusing on their work." We covered similar research done on mice to improve their memory in September.
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DARPA Investing In Electric Brain Stimulation To Train Snipers Quickly

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  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @02:20PM (#38956997) Homepage

    "I know kung fu."

  • Overclocking the brain?

    a 2-milliamp current will run through the part of the brain associated with object recognition — an important skill when visually combing a scene for assailants

    • Remember, the bulb that burns twice as bright, only lasts half as long. (Unless you're using those funny looking bulbs, then my analogy goes right down the toilet) I don't want to be spoon feeding burned-out snipers in the home...
      • I'm fairly certain it's actually an exponential problem. Run 3 times the power through a traditional lightbulb and watch it "poof" in a second. Run a quarter of the power through and it could last a century (the oldest running lightbuld in the world runs at a fairly low wattage).
        • by peragrin (659227)

          actually hidden secret take a 100w bulb and run it at 75 watts of light output and presto a bulb that lats 10,000 or so hours.

          cutting voltage greatly increases projected life.

          The trick is they are trying to massively reduce electricity usage so they don't have to approve of more power plants.

    • An additional 2-milliamp current will be run through the pleasure center of the brain for every target correctly identified and eliminated. In related news, application to sniper school hits a all-time high.
  • by Talderas (1212466) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @02:24PM (#38957067)

    So combined with the earlier article about guided long range bullets this technology would be the second of three pieces to accelerate training or open up the candidate pool. Now we just need the trifecta article about some sort of stealth camouflage system.

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @02:28PM (#38957139) Homepage Journal

    Just in time to be replaced by drones.

  • I, for one, welcome our cyborg sniper overlords.

  • How many crystals were needed to build a terran ghost anyway?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps more research should go toward stimulating political thinking into avoiding situations where snipers need to be rapidly trained.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by trum4n (982031)
      The brain isn't the part of the anatomy that politicians need electrodes hooked to....
    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Yea, I'm sure the leaders of Pakistan, Iran, al-Qaeda et al won't mind us rigging them up to some electrodes. Not at all.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @02:53PM (#38957567)

    I knew there would be a use for that old Electroshock Therapy machine that I picked up dirt cheap from military surplus.

    If you wait long enough, wacky medical treatments become in vogue again. Like leeches, that are used for skin grafts.

    My original plans of using the Electroshock Therapy machine to keep the neighborhood kids off my lawn did not go down too well with the neighbors, the police, and various other government agencies. Until they found no law against owning an Electroshock Therapy, and threatening to use it on kids on my lawn.

    By then the neighbors wouldn't let their kids anywhere near my ranch anyway, so I guess it was effective after all.

    Now about my plans for opening a private sniper school . . .

    • by Anomalyst (742352)

      Now about my plans for opening a private sniper school . . .

      Where's the profit in limiting your potential targets to the E-1 paygrade?

  • When did we run out of snipers? Did they all just up and retire last weekend? Is there a reason we need a large numbers of snipers trained quickly? Is RL warfare turning into one of those CoD matches where everyone rolls sniper and stares at a window until someone with a shotgun creeps up behind them? Although this research sounds interesting, it strikes me as a solution looking for a problem.
    • Just venturing a guess, but sniping, as opposed to other combat skills, seems a rather controlled, calculable (word?) action. Compare it to moving through a city in formation, disarming a bomb, etc. Don't get me wrong, snipers are highly skilled and gifted, but the complexity of the tax, I think, is better suited to a technology that augments the brains natural learning rhythms. In other words, it's not because they need more snipers, but because they need to test the tech. PS. Manchurian Candidate, anyo
      • by X0563511 (793323)

        ... and even then, if the training is fast and efficient, why NOT have more marksman-trained riflemen? It's not like engaging at a longer range with better accuracy isn't a good thing. It's not like a game where someone "classed" for long range is excluded from function at close range.

    • by PlatyPaul (690601)
      Better to get them with the knife, in CoD. Shotguns will paint you on enemy radar, besides being more effective at clue-ing in anyone nearby that there is trouble lurking around.
    • by iamwahoo2 (594922)

      You are dead on. This is a solution looking for a problem and low hanging fruit for reducing DARPA spending as far as I am concerned. Granted, researching how to learn better is a worthwhile goal and probably a much more useful goal than teaching people to shoot other people.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Snipers are a very efficient way to use lethal force.

      They avoid collateral damage, blowback from killing bystanders, etc. Ideally every soldier would be a proficient rifleman.

      Contrast with mortars, cluster bomblets, cannon fire, etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can't we just give the soulless drones at DARPA electroshock so they stop coming up with ideas to fuck the world up more and more?

  • Snipers? WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @03:06PM (#38957751)

    TFA doesn't mention snipers. The description is of someone firing rapidly to supress an attack.

    Sniper teams (not just one person) work slowly and methodically by comparison. Identifying the target isn't done under the kind of pressure described in the article. And there's figuring the range and windage as well. Not something done at that kind of an almost instinctive level.

    And then there's the issue of muscle memory. A lot of shooting (accurately) depends on eye-hand coordination and motor learning to control superfluous movements that can mess up a shot. Will this stimulation do anything for that?

    • This stimulation wouldn't directly effect muscle memory, but it's part of a whole system. I think more research is needed. It be interesting to see a situation where the brain has acquired the necessary pathways to be better, but the muscle tissue and peripheral nervous system hasn't caught up. BTW, TFA does mention sniping specifically. From TFA:

      Weisend, who is working on a US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency programme to accelerate learning, has been using this form of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to cut the time it takes to train snipers

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Sounds like the article is actually talking about designated marksmen or sharpshooters in general.

    • A lot of shooting (accurately) depends on eye-hand coordination and motor learning to control superfluous movements that can mess up a shot. Will this stimulation do anything for that?

      Actually the article says the exact same thing you said! In the article it says that professional soccer player's play-styles are different from beginner and amateur player's play-styles in that pros have less superfluous movements.

    • Re:Snipers? WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

      by SlowMovingTarget (550823) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @04:18PM (#38958869) Homepage

      From TFA:

      Weisend, who is working on a US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency programme to accelerate learning, has been using this form of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to cut the time it takes to train snipers.

      That's from page 2. Do more than skim.

  • by SpinningCone (1278698) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @03:13PM (#38957873)

    Read that article the other day, very interesting it will be cool when they pinpoint these areas more specifically and make a hat that can tune your abilities. i have read similar articles using electricity to shut down parts of the brain and people suddenly gain increased artistic abilities or math skills etc.

    i imagine that soon we could potentially have a consumer grade device that would help stimulate the parts of your brain to help with the task at hand or temporarily shut down the parts that would hinder.

    thought hat leaves the question about school work etc/ could you force employees to use it to make them better. could people who can afford one be getting an unfair advantage academically?

  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @03:21PM (#38957975)

    We figure out a way to enhance human mental acuity, and the very first thing we apply it to is training snipers. Interspecies communication? Military dolphins. Never mind nuclear physics.

    If we were as good at anything as we are at killing each other and stealing each other's stuff, we might have a chance. Hell, if we were even more interested in something else -- and no, screwing doesn't count.

    • by mark-t (151149)
      Why shouldn't screwing count, exactly?
      • by wierd_w (1375923)

        It creates more problems than it solves.

        Re: baby momma drama.

        Personally, I think most of the world's problems would be better resolved by deactivating those particular impulses. (Sex and violence are closely related behaviorally. Both are tied heavily to the endocrine system, and are mediated by the amygdala and thalamus.) Of course, complete shutdown of the responsible areas would be highly detrimental, as the same region is responsible for other emotional states, and for a number of autonomic processes.

        St

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Bummer.. I was going to propose something to stimulate blood flow in certain areas of the body..
      I am over 60. I would use an implant like that.

    • Yeah, maybe the huge deep pockets that the military has can figure out a way to make a braincap. So what? DARPA built the Internet as a nuclear-weapons-resistant communications suite. Now it's a global information network that governments and media moguls around the globe are afraid of.

      • by Dog-Cow (21281)

        DARPA built the Internet as a nuclear-weapons-resistant communications suite.

        No they didn't.

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      My, aren't you an angsty badger!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why should a defense R&D organization care about other applications. If someone else wants to spend money to research the things you want they're free to. Meanwhile DARPA will put its money towards research for the military. That's their job.

  • That movie is "Wanted" so you want to train a sniper quickly? put a loaded gun to his head, with safety off but actually pull the trigger if he misses the target.

  • My Greatest Fear (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bicx (1042846)
    My greatest fear with brain enhancement technology is that it creates a super-class of humans. Those who have the ability to pay for the technology will have a majorly unfair advantage against those who don't, creating a dangerously elite group of people.
    • by Anomalyst (742352)

      dangerously elite

      Sounds like a great name for a R.E.M. cover band.

    • Me first!

    • Those who have the ability to pay for the technology will have a majorly unfair advantage against those who don't, creating a dangerously elite group of people.

      Unlike now.

    • by smithmc (451373) *

      My greatest fear with brain enhancement technology is that it creates a super-class of humans. Those who have the ability to pay for the technology will have a majorly unfair advantage against those who don't, creating a dangerously elite group of people.

      Substitute "brain enhancement technology" with "smartphones", "personal computers", "automobiles", "airplanes", "telegraphs", "printed books", "arithmetic" etc. All technologies that confer some advantage are generally more readily available, and sooner, to people with money than to people without. (The funny thing is, I don't know if I'm making an argument that technology is a rising tide that lifts all boats, or that technology and its superior availability to the wealthy is a proof that trickle-down re

  • Two things that stand out from the article:

    "warns me that if I remove an electrode and break the connection, the voltage passing through my brain will blind me for a good few seconds."

    oh, yay. zappiezappie

    but worse:

    In the sudden quiet amid the bodies around me, I was really expecting more assailants, and I'm a bit disappointed when the team begins to remove my electrodes. I look up and wonder if someone wound the clocks forward. Inexplicably, 20 minutes have just passed. "How many did I get?" I ask the assistant. She looks at me quizzically. "All of them."

    This should freak you the hell out

    The beginnings of a "super soldier" program, that not only improves performance dramatically, but also disengages the higher brain functions ZombieSoldier, (c)US Army, all rights reserved(to the government)

  • by dontPanik (1296779) <ndeselms.gmail@com> on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @03:57PM (#38958561)
    Really liked this article. I've experienced "flow" to a limited degree when playing music and playing video games, it's something I'd like to be able to attain more. The only time I really enter "flow" when playing music is when I'm improvising with other musicians and I get really 'in the zone' with what I'm playing.
  • So.. when will this be publicly available? My K:D ratio for Modern Warfare 2 could use a boost..
  • One thing to take away is that higher mental abilities come not from stimulating an area of the brain but by shutting it down. Do we need an external device to do that?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Great, now even real snipers have wallhacks.

  • by dave562 (969951) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @04:48PM (#38959283) Journal

    These people use biofeedback to help with ADHD and other conditions.

    http://www.drakeinstitute.com/ [drakeinstitute.com]

    I did one of their treatment programs about a decade ago. There really is a "feeling" associated with being focused. Via biofeedback you can train the mind to recognize mental states in the brain. It is a very powerful and useful science.

    It seems like the military is taking shortcuts. Rather than going through a 6 month program, they are just pumping some current through the areas of the brain related to the type of learning that they are trying to enhance. It seems like it would be effective. Once the synapses have been formed, the training is more or less permanent.

    I wonder if they've considered piracetam or other nootropics to further enhance the process.

  • "You missed the target, private. I'm increasing the stimulation."

    *zap* "Ouch!"

    "If you miss the target again, I will increase it again. Do you understand?"

    "Yes, Drill Sergeant!"

  • "Yeah, our policy is to wire up all our new interns. After the first burnout, or if their physician starts complaining about their body weight (forgetting to eat is a common side-effect), we give 'em a test. If they've learned enough by then, we hire 'em. If not, well, we're not running a charity here."
  • Even if it sound stupid, flow is a actual area of research for psychologists and the rather weird and interesting effects it has on human perception and reaction. It's really cool stuff and most people either take it for granted or don't even know they're doing it. It effects everyone in every part of our lives as well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)
  • Time to dust off the Zener cards.

  • Electric Brain Stimulation To Train Snipers Quickly

    Private: "I'm trying, but I just suck at shooting..."
    Drill Sgt: "I've got a brain-shocker here that says you don't."

  • At first, I though the title said "... To train spiders quickly" What a terrifying thought.

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