ELECTRIFY YOUR BRAIN
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.