"Popular electric brain stimulation method used to boost brainpower is detrimental to IQ scores"
The military has been doing tDCS (direct current) experiments for a while for increased learning & performance.
I had a friend who used to swear by tDCS and did it very frequently. He attributed all kinds of mood & cognition improvements to it, including substantially reduced need for sleep, improved eyesight (he was born partially blind), etc. He also complained about migraines a lot and liked to experiment with all kinds of supplements, so YMMV.
Tried tDCS myself a handful of times, not for improved learning but for improved focus. If applied correctly it definitely has an effect that I'd consider better / stronger than a cup of coffee. I wouldn't feel comfortable doing it regularly though.
There's a subreddit that used to be pretty active:
And here's a good Radiolab podcast, including DARPA Sniper experiments, etc:
Reminds me of Alessandro Volta. In 1790, after inventing the battery, he stuck the the electrodes in his ears. He felt an explosion in his head, heard the sound of boiling “viscous matter" and passed out.
It would be nice if researchers could recruit these people to volunteer to be actual research subjects instead of messing with themselves and creating just anecdotes.
The experimenters set up a system that could detect slow-wave (SW) fluctuations in brain activity. They used trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (electro-magnets on the scalp) to "augment" this SW activity. This seems to have improved memory, measured by some specific learning task they set for the participants.
Trans-cranial magnetic stimulation is becoming popular in trans-human type circles. Apparently it's becoming feasible to do at home with cheap off the shelf components. However, of course, the long term effects and side effects are poorly understood.
This particular experiment used 16 participants (only three of whom were female, for some daft reason) so we can't draw any firm conclusions from this.
From Wikipedia: "ECT is often used with informed consent as a last line of intervention for major depressive disorder, mania, and catatonia. ECT machines have been placed in the Class II category (special controls) by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1976." (Emphasis mine.)
I don't think we are close to understanding the brain either.
I'm reading Why We Sleep (Matthew Walker), published 2017-09 - an HN recommendation from a while back - and I've just read the chapter where he describes an experiment that sounds exactly like this (as in, same approach, same outcomes).
I ultimately layered that audio behind a guided meditation relaxation track I found online and used the combination as a sleep aid for a few years.