News & Perspectives

Brain Hacks

Brain Hacks

The body as an electric playground
Perspective// Posted by: Lori Zimmer / 12 Apr 2016
Brain hacks

Thanks to Hollywood blockbusters, many of us have likely spent time waiting for our true selves to emerge—for our hidden superhero powers to be revealed.

But some people are waiting no longer. A new breed, called Grinders, are proactively turning to “body hacks” to improve their bodies, minds and skill sets. Grinders fuse science and technology with sometimes drastic surgeries. These allow them to “touch” electromagnetic fields with magnets implanted into fingers, find Wi-Fi signals by literally hearing them, or—yikes—jump-start their brains with electric currents.

Chip

Using an electric current to boost brain activity might recall, for some, electroshock therapy. But a 2015 article from Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience focuses on 13 studies that have shown how a little transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) at a low current can boost memory, improve cognitive function and lead to better math scores.

Magnet implant

Those studies were conducted in controlled scientific environments—but some Grinders are trying this at home. Companies like The Brain Stimulator make specialized electrode kits, enabling would-be Grinders to take matters into their own hands. Most kits even come with kitschy safety headbands, emblazoned with the company’s logo.

Implants

Such hacking—whether through implants, electricity or internal gadgetry—brings up an old issue: How much cyber-enhancement still qualifies one to identify as purely human? In this case, a Grinder’s brain buzz is a minor hack, with no permanent artificial parts to compromise their “humanness.” But Wi-Fi implants? The jury may still be out on that one.

Lori Zimmer
Lori Zimmer, New York based writer, curator and creator of Art Nerd New York. She regularly contributes to an array of art publications.