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The Motherboard Inside Your Brain

Brain scientists are working to turn on and off behavior with electricity—and possibly motivation and optimism, too. How a few amps of electric current could change your life.
“You do look glum! What you need is a gramme of soma.” — Aldous Huxley, Brave New WorldLet’s say you’re feeling blah, and need a jolt of something to pep you up. Or you just berated a barista for no good reason. Wouldn’t it be nice if a technology existed that could shut down these unwanted behaviors as easily and safely as flipping a light switch?Perhaps more crucial to who you are, and to who we are as humans, what if scientists could also use this mind tech to turn up or down attributes like willpower and enthusiasm, making your brain feel either charged up or pleasantly numbed?The technology in question is electricity—delivered not in huge jolts like those that animated the creature in Frankenstein, but in steady, low-amp currents gently applied to a person’s skull and brain. It’s an old technology, used by physicians since at least the time of ancient Rome to treat depression and other maladies of the mind. (Roman physicians used electric eels.) In more recent centuries scientists have dabbled in using electrodes to deliver varying amps of juice up until the 1960s, when neuro-electrical stimulation was largely abandoned in favor of drugs.