By PAGAN KENNEDY  |  February 7, 2007

A while ago, someone suggested to Wassermann that he take some tDCS machines to a nearby university and wire up half the students in a classroom before they took a test. Would the battery-powered kids do better? ”I thought the ethics of that sort of application were questionable, because you don’t want to advantage people who can afford something” that others can’t, Wassermann says.

Of course, these machines could be as cheap as clock radios or coffee makers. So arguing about the ethics of brain-pods might be an exercise in futility; if tDCS turns out to produce strong effects, the machines will pop up everywhere, whether we like it or not. “It’s an interesting phenomenon, if this were an effective treatment, to have it get completely loose,” Wassermann says. “I’m not excited enough about [tDCS] as a panacea or a great social evil at this point to be very worried. But if it were very potent, it will be all over the place. The Chinese would flood the market with gizmos. This could get completely out of control. It could be like blogging. Everybody could be a brain manipulator.”

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