US Navy Special Operators from SEAL Team 6 will be testing new communication headsets that are supposed to maintain their peak performance during operations.

The Commander of all Naval Special Operations asked industry leaders at a conference in Washington, D.C. to develop and demonstrate technologies that offer “cognitive enhancement” capabilities to boost his elite forces’ mental and physical performance.

“We plan on using that in mission enhancement,” Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski said. “The performance piece is really critical to the life of our operators.”

Szymanski expanded on his remarks in a brief interview later, saying he has his eye on a number of technologies, including pharmaceutical aids. But the results of one breakthrough involving the direct application of electrical stimulation to the brain have particularly caught his eye.

“In experiments, people who were watching these screens … their ability to concentrate would fall off in about 20 minutes,” Szymanski said. “But they did studies whereby a little bit of electrical stimulation was applied, and they were able to maintain the same peak performance for 20 hours.”

Developed for elite athletes, the headset purports to work by stimulating the brain to enter a state of hyper-elasticity, allowing users to learn better and more efficiently. In physical training, he said, the technology has proven useful in developing explosive power for athletes whose sports require vertical leaps or sudden starts.

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For operators, the same system could improve shooting performance, Wingeier said.

“Whatever you’re training on as far as a movement-based skill,” he said, “if you do deep practice, hard repetition, this accelerates the benefit of that.”

There have been different kinds of technology being tested including transcranial electrical stimulation that helped operators maintain their focus longer as well as a headset that resembles a set of Beats headphones by Dr. Dre made by Halo Neuroscience.

The Navy is also looking alternative performance-enhancing experiments and pharmaceutical aids such as a blood testosterone in the near future.


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Photo courtesy DOD