Tuesday, April 11, 2017 by Jayson Veley
With each passing day, the world seems to look more and more like a science fiction film. We are constantly developing new forms of medicine and technology, most of which didn’t even exist in our wildest dreams not long ago. Cell phones, for instance, were once nothing more than a concept routinely portrayed on episodes of Star Trek. The idea that two people could communicate over long distances on a device no more than a few millimeters thick was almost inconceivable, and yet today, those devices not only exist but are also used for a lot more than just communicating. Indeed, with continuous advancements in technology, virtually anything is possible.
In February, Rear Admiral Tim Szymanski, the commander of all Navy special operations units, called for the development of brain stimulating technology that could be used to enhance the cognitive skills of Navy Seals. “We plan on using that in mission enhancement,” Szymanski said at a conference near Washington D.C. “The performance piece is really critical to the life of our operators.”
Shortly after the conference, Szymanski elaborated on his vision during a brief interview. He said that, while he is keeping an open mind and looking into various technologies, what he is most interested in is technology that would apply direct stimulation to the brain.
“In experiments, people who were watching these screens…. Their ability to concentrate would fall off in about 20 minutes,” the Rear Admiral explained. “But they did studies whereby a little bit of electrical stimulation was applied, and they were able to maintain the same peak performance for 20 hours.”
It’s easy to see how such technology would benefit those fighting out on the battlefield. Having enhanced brain function and cognitive skills would give SEALs a significant advantage over the enemy, and in some cases could even mean the difference between life and death.
Despite the statement made by Szymanski just a few weeks ago, cognitive enhancement is a technology that has been explored by multiple SEAL units, ever since former Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that it was part of his Defense Innovation Unit, or DIUx, in July of 2016.
Captain Jason Salata, a spokesman for the Naval Special Warfare Units, said in a statement, “Earlier this year, Naval Special Warfare units, working with DIUx, began a specific cognitive enhancement project with a small group of volunteers to test and evaluate achieving higher performance through the use of neuro-stimulation technology.”
Halo Neuroscience is the company that is responsible for making the brain stimulating devices, which apparently look similar to typical headphones that one would use to listen to music. Although the technology was originally developed for athletes, the technology could also be used to improve shooting performance by allowing the brain to enter a state of hyper-elasticity.
But technology for our soldiers isn’t just limited to devices that affect the brain. For quite some time now, the military has been looking for ways to develop specialized armor that can enhance the physical capabilities of those fighting out on the battlefield. Some armor even has the ability to absorb bullets like a sponge, such as the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) created by Special Operations Command. TALOS is made from “liquid body armor,” which has the ability to solidify within milliseconds after being hit with a bullet. This allows those who wear it to stay protected without sacrificing mobility. In addition, TALOS uses skin sensors to detect the soldier’s heart rate and other vital signs. (RELATED: Could WWIII be fought with robotic exoskeletons?)
With technology constantly being thrust into a forward motion, it is a relief to see much of it going to good use. After all, there aren’t many people more deserving of it than our brave men and women who put their lives on the line for our country.
Follow more news on medical and neuroscience discoveries at Discoveries.news.