Computers could improve your focus by zapping your brain with electricity

Tuning our brains with electric currents and red light

Brains are pretty powerful. So are modern computers. But the interactions between the two are much less impressive - limited to screens, mice, keyboards and videogame controllers.

That's why computer scientists at Tufts University are looking for some way to improve it. They're experimenting with new methods to get information in and out of our heads, using light and electricity.

By sticking sensors on the forehead and shining bright red light into the skull, it's possible to measure oxygen levels in the brain - a technique known as functional near-infrared spectroscopy.

High oxygen means that you're thinking hard, and computers can use that information to avoid distracting you when you're concentrating.

Current Affairs

Another technique, known as transcranial direct current stimulation, makes it possible for computers to directly manipulate our grey matter.

From early experiments, it seems that running a weak electric current through your skull increases the excitability of the neurons in the brain, making them more or less likely to fire. So far, however, the results are inconsistent.

With a bit of refinement, and a lot more testing on humans, it's hoped that both technologies could help create computer systems that both adapt to us and allow us to adapt to them.