May 12, 2014

Just $20 to Become Smarter and Pain Free - Electrify Your Brain

I read this piece about DIY Brain Simulation on +WIRED and I’m fascinated by it. Being a geek and fascinated by human brain this was perfect material for getting me in to overdrive mode.

It talks about brain zapping, giving your brain electric shocks to stimulate.

Williams got the idea from a news story about how Air Force researchers were studying whether brain stimulation could cut pilot training time. The military is not alone in thinking that brain zapping may improve mental function. In recent years, the method—technically known as transcranial direct current stimulation—has caught the interest of academic researchers.
From +Wikipedia "Transcranial direct current stimulation works by sending constant, low direct current through the electrodes. When these electrodes are placed in the region of interest, the current induces intracerebral current flow. This current flow then either increases or decreases the neuronal excitability in the specific area being stimulated based on which type of stimulation is being used."
So in layman’s term you use a device to give low voltage currents to your brain. I knew little bit about electrotherapy but people taking it to this level (DIY) fascinates me.
Williams is one of its leaders. The treatments have made a huge difference in his life, he says. He retains more information from the tedious journal articles he has to read for work, and he feels more creative. On his blog, SpeakWisdom, he posts technically detailed reviews of stimulation devices and cheerfully gives advice to anyone considering trying it for the first time. He’s got lots of company. A subreddit devoted to the practice has nearly 4,000 subscribers who actively follow the scientific research and share tips on where to place the electrodes on your head if, say, you’re depressed, too impulsive, or just want to amp up your creativity.
Madge, who likes to memorize scripture, says the stimulation has improved her retention dramatically.
  • British neuroscientists have claimed it can make people better at learning math.
  • A team at Harvard has found promise for depression and chronic pain.
  • Others are looking into using it to treat tinnitus and eating disorders and to speed up stroke recovery.
While all above fascinates me, I still have feeling that this is all placebo effect.

Another crucial issue is how to rule out placebo effects. Though the current flowing through the brain during stimulation is almost imperceptible (it’s about a thousand times less than what’s used in electroconvulsive therapy), a slight tingling sensation under the electrodes can be a giveaway.
Also until its been researched bit more we don’t know if this currents are destroying your neural pathways or neurons in some way.

I would love to try this gadget from foc.us as it looks cool but I would rather ask someone to build one for $20.+Gizmodo has an article How To Electrify Your Brain To Be Smarter With a 9-Volt Battery

Update: Sgt. Michael Conte, who served in Iraq for the U.S. Army, emailed me to let me know he uses Alpha Stim cranial electrotherapy stimulator, which costs around $600 and requires a prescription, to treat symptoms of a minor brain injury suffered in 2007 following an IED explosion. "During the LONG process of my treatment and some of my comrades' treatment we have been given nuero stimulation and nuero feedback. One of the devices we are authorized to buy and use is the Alpha-stim. For some people it increases mood, for others it's a pep like caffeine, for some it calms them down enough to sleep, for me it clears the fog which I consistently live in due to my injury. The results last most of the day for me and allow me to continue my job with little loss of function," Conte told me. Thank you, sergeant, for sharing your story and for your service!
Something to do this weekend