Inc. (USA) - - UP NEXT - — J.B.

Cof­fee breaks have a ro­bust ba­sis in neu­ro­science: Hu­man brains can’t main­tain fo­cus on a bor­ing task too long, says re­searcher Andy McKin­ley. “Usu­ally, af­ter 20 min­utes or so, per­for­mance has gone down quite a bit,” he says. Caf­feine ex­tends that win­dow, but nowhere near as much as zap­ping the brain with elec­tri­cal cur­rents, as McKin­ley knows. He fo­cuses on tran­scra­nial di­rect-cur­rent stim­u­la­tion—tDCS—at the U.S. Air Force’s ap­plied neu­ro­science branch’s cog­ni­tive per­for­mance op­ti­miza­tion sec­tion. In tri­als in­volv­ing repet­i­tive work, elec­tri­cally stim­u­lat­ing the left frontal cor­tex let sub­jects main­tain con­cen­tra­tion for up to six hours—with­out a per­for­mance drop. In other tests, tDCS ac­cel­er­ated the rate of learn­ing by 25 per­cent. Maybe brain-zap­ping head­sets—al­ready a thing with Sil­i­con Val­ley bio­hack­ers—will one day be as com­mon as es­presso ma­chines.

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