THE CONTROVERSIAL IDEA that you can “train” a human brain to get smarter or faster has spread through the worlds of elite athletics and brain-trauma recovery. Now it’s going to boot camp. Military leaders, aware that troops face ever-more complicated threats and ever-more complicated gear, are starting to think that brain training might be just as important as pushups.
At the recent “Mad Scientist” talks at Fort Leavenworth, and in white papers like the Army’s Human Dimensions Concept report (PDF), psychologists and neuroscientists who work with the military are starting to borrow the sports/trauma playbook. Right now, most of the work is still only in the lab, but researchers predict that soon army bases will have “cognitive gyms” where off-duty fighters can flex their gray matter with a test designed to increase short-term memory, boost their ability to deal with multiple things at once—that’s called “cognitive load”—and maybe even get better at shooting their weapons.
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