Scientists Will Zap Prisoners' Brains To Make Them Behave

If high school taught us anything, it's that if you lock up a bunch of overly emotional sociopaths together for prolonged periods of time, things can get pretty intense. And in a way, that also applies to maximum security prisons, the murderer's equivalent of after-school detention. Fortunately, Spanish scientists think they've discovered a revolutionary way to get convicted criminals to stop being so bad: by pumping a bunch of electricity into them.

No, not like that.

Wikimedia Commons No, not like that.

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Researchers at the University of Huelva in Spain are about to commence an experiment to study the effects of transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) on the brains of violent convicts. Over a course of a few days, a dozen convicted murderers will get electrodes strapped to their brains in the hopes of finding a way to zap the violent urges out of their heads. Afterwards, the subjects will donate some of their drool and receive a questionnaire asking how stabby they're feeling on a scale of 1 to "having 'Baby Shark' stuck in your head."

But before you start picturing Nicolas Cage / John Travolta getting the contents of their skull turned into that of an Edison elephant, tDCS is actually more of a brain massager than a fryer, using very low levels of direct current to painlessly "stimulate" the mind. That's why tDCS gained popularity during the late '00s brain health fad, when people got way into Sudoku and brain-training video games became so popular that they could afford to get Nicole Kidman to shill for them. You can even buy your own tDCS kit for a couple of hundred bucks online. It's that harmless. So harmless, in fact, that most scientists think you'd get more measurable results hot-wiring a potato to your nipples.

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But the experiment comes on the heels of a similar 2018 University of Pennsylvania study, which also used electricity on prisoners, and that showed a possible significant decrease in violent tendencies in the zapped inmates -- which does seem really obvious, if you put it like that. And in recent years, studies have also found that tDCS can have an effect on mental health, with one promising study noting it can alleviate depression -- though in rare cases, it can also cause fits of rage in those treated.

So a vague prison experiment that might result in accidentally turning a convicted murderer into a focused, hyper-aggressive genius? Sounds like pretty weak gains to risk causing the occasional Bane origin story, if you ask us.

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