One of the toughest things to teach Air Force pilots who guide unmanned attack drones is how to accurately spot targets in complex radar images. Researchers, however, have found a way to cut that lengthy training time in half.

Delivering a mild electrical current to pilots’ brains through EEG electrodes placed on the scalp — a process called transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) — can accelerate learning and improve pilot accuracy. In addition, that accuracy is sustained for up to 40 minutes, whereas it otherwise typically declines after 20 minutes.

What’s more, TDCS could have many medical applications in the military and beyond by accelerating retraining and recovery after brain injury or disease.

Studies suggest TDCS produces physical changes in the brain’s structure as well as physiological changes in its response. By using electricity to energize neural circuits in the cerebral cortex, researchers hope they’ve found a harmless and drug-free way to double the speed of learning.

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