Not Quite A Take Apart – Nathan Looks At The Thync Device

I was happy to lend Nathan my Thync. I knew he’d get to the bottom of what exactly was going on. Especially in the context of exploring TES, pulsed wave forms and some of the older technologies I’d recently been made aware of in my interview with Anna Wexler, I knew the Thync device would represent the state of the art. Jamie Tyler had arranged for me to have one, most likely in my capacity as a blogger and reporter of all things related to neurostimulation. I myself did not experience any significant effects using the Thync though I did find myself using it frequently – mostly the Calm vibe. Was there some effect lying just below consciousness that my body was reacting to? Certainly nothing like the experience Manoush Zomorodi had trying Thync for her podcast episode Forget Edibles: Getting High on Wearables (really a must hear).

Check out Nathan’s full analysis of the Thync device. The Science and Technology Behind Thync’s Brain(?) Stimulator

tdcsNathanThyncRecording

Catching Up With tDCS News

If you’re a Twitter person, follow along here: https://twitter.com/DIYtDCS where I cover more advanced tDCS-related news.

In new work Jonides in presenting at the CNS conference, he and colleagues have found that tDCS has a robust effect on working memory, with enhancements lasting over a course of months. “Previous research has been equivocal about whether tDCS enhances training, and there have been no long-term investigations of how long that training effect lasts,” Jonides says.

In the new study, 62 participants randomly received tDCS stimulation to either the right or left prefrontal cortex or received sham stimulation while performing a visuospatial working memory task. After 7 training sessions, those who received the tDCS stimulation had increased working memory capabilities, even several months after completing their training. They also found that those who receive stimulation on the right prefrontal cortex had selective ability to transfer the working memory to non-trained tasks.

I will definitely be following up on this one. Neuroscientists working to test brain training claims 4/5/16
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Here, we review the recent research that has explored the effects of tDCS on WM (working memory) in healthy young adults, older adults, and patient populations. We also discuss several recent meta-analyses that have examined the efficacy of tDCS as a WM intervention. While a majority of the papers reviewed suggest that tDCS can modulate WM, this effect is highly inconsistent. These seemingly conflicting results may be driven by differences in study design, tDCS protocol, or inter-individual differences.

Meta research paper looks years of tDCS working memory research. Interesting and useful, in the list of papers they cite they add (highlighted) the particular significance of that paper. Uncertainty and Promise: the Effects of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation on Working Memory  4/5/16
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Those advantages appeal to the DIY users as well. On Reddit’s tDCS community, many anonymous users describe using the technique to treat mental disorders, including depression and anxiety. Alexander Mark is one of them. A 63-year-old Michigan resident, he says, “I am afflicted with Bipolar Disorder II, and learned about tDCS in an effort to find a way to relieve myself of the severe depression that often comes with the illness.” He began trying it when his medication proved ineffective (though that’s no longer the case), and he’s only had a single negative experience—when he misplaced an electrode. (He currently uses the Chattanooga Ionto iontophoresis system, which sells for about $700 through third-party merchants on Amazon.)

Article also discusses a Direct To Consumer tDCS device that didn’t do so well in their tests. The promise and peril of DIY electrical brain stimulation By Anna Denejkina 4/10/16
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I would argue that the fine tradition of self-experimentation can be harnessed, if structures are created that allow at-home users to contribute their experiences to a common store of knowledge. At present online sharing of tDCS experiences is haphazard, and is restricted to the more anarchic fringes of the internet. However, those communities are generating potentially valuable information, which could be of great interest to researchers and to manufacturers. At-home and DIY users frequently stretch the limits of protocols, delivering higher current for greater amounts of time.17 Bringing at-home users into the fold will provide useful information about safe and unsafe protocols, and will generate important information about the milder side-effects of tDCS that are thought to be under-reported by researchers

In his paper The regulation of consumer tDCS: engaging a community of creative self-experimenters, Nick Davis makes the case that there is the potential for home-use DIY users to contribute to our understanding of tDCS. 4/5/16
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Tyler, who co-founded Thync and recently returned to academia as an associate professor at Arizona State University, says such concerns are legitimate. Yet he is certain that they can be overcome and that medical-grade brain devices will one day be commonplace and able to, for example, relieve the pain of migraines or treat debilitating neurological conditions.

“Yes, a lot more work still needs to be done,” he said. “But the technology holds tremendous promise. It’s not just about us saying we’re going to stimulate the nerves so you can chill.”

Mostly about the Thync (not tDCS) device. Note that Jamie Tyler, who was a co-founder and lead scientist at Thync, has returned to academia (and I’ll hazard a guess, to his first love, transcranial pulsed ultrasound stimulation). Brain-zapping gadgets promise to make you a better you — smarter, stronger, even happier. 3/29/16
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Thync Announces Sleep Vibe

This is could be a game changer. Announced today on the Thync mailing list. New vibe available for download.

Today, after a full year of clinical sleep studies, we are thrilled to announce a sneak peek of our latest research.20160223thyncSleepAnnounced

After 1 week of using our new Good Night Vibe, our participants reported:

  • Improved sleep quality similar to 4 weeks of meditation or 8 weeks of melatonin
  • Reduced mid-night awakenings
  • Improved morning mood & alertness
  • Reduced anxiety & stress

…And the cherry on top?

The same Good Night Vibe that we used in our clinical testing is now available in the Thync app for you to use!

So go ahead – run your own sleep study: Try out the Good Night Vibe for a week, and let us know what you think!

 

New ‘Vibes’ From Thync

[Update 20151104] Have asked via Twitter if there was additional (to their study PDF) science to verify these, well could you call them claims? Will update this post as information emerges.

 

I haven’t seen any word of this on their site or Twitter, but it appears Thync is set to launch new ‘vibes’. It’s also possible that because I’m on their mailing list, I’m part of a marketing test. You’ll recall that a ‘vibe’ is a desired outcome from a setting on their hardware. Thync launched with the ‘Calm’ and ‘Energy’ vibe. The email announces the ‘Workout Vibe’, the ‘Zen Vibe’ and the ‘Holiday Vibe’.

thyncVibes20151102

@DIYtDCS
I would assume each Vibe represents a unique waveform? Was there additional science as well or based off previous study?

@DIYtDCS Yes all are distinct waveforms & rigoursly tested on 100+ volunteers/week. 15,000+ total vibes used by customers in Oct alone
— Jamie (@jamiethync) November 4, 2015

@DIYtDCS  Interesting… of course, the app tracks use! No doubt some fascinating data emerging, especially as new Vibes come online.

@DIYtDCS You got it! Neuromod research on new level. Industrial data leads to new insights/capabilities & improved tech across the board.

Mind over matter: Ultrarunner Dean Karnazes’s brain-training device | Sports Illustrated

Thync works by pulsing small electrical currents, no more than about 20 milliamps, through nerves on the head. A sticky strip of electrodes attaches to places where nerves run close to the skin above the right eyebrow, behind the ear, and on the back of the neck. A small triangular device connects above the eyebrow, and sends electrical pulses out through the electrode strip. According to Jamie Tyler, Thync’s CSO and other co-founder, the effect of pulsing currents along these nerves is to modulate norepinephrine production in the brainstem at the back of the head. The device has two main modes—called “vibes” in Thync-speak—calm and energy. The difference between these two is that energy increases the release of norepinephrine, increasing alertness, whereas calm decreases it.

This Device Can Zap Your Brain Into A State Of Zen. Is That A Good Thing? | Huff Post

The device did seem to work on some level. For 15 minutes, I experienced a light pressure on the side of my forehead while the electrodes delivered pulses. Toward the end of the session and for about an hour afterward, my brain was definitely down a notch. However, I wouldn’t describe the feeling as zen so much as vaguely stoned. This is apparently not unusual, as one of the company’s publicity reps, Mark de la Vina, told me that it makes a small percentage of users feel high. I felt a pleasant, light floatiness and noticed myself typing and speaking more slowly.

The sensation was something I could definitely get used to — although I won’t be swapping out my meditation practice for a vibe session anytime soon.

“People seek to relax … in different ways,” said Dr. Judy Iles, a University of British Columbia neuroethicist. “But why it is better or safer than exercise, meditation or fresh air or other healthy lifestyle behaviors is not evident.”

The bottom line? Early adopters are essentially part of an experiment. Casual users might replace the evening cocktail with an occasional zap, but until more research is done, you’d be wise to think twice before replacing your morning coffee with a jolt to the head.

Source: This Device Can Zap Your Brain Into A State Of Zen. Is That A Good Thing?

More Thoughts on Thync

Just because it’s come up quite a bit lately on the tDCS subReddit , I thought to re-publish this link to a talk Jamie Tyler gave just prior to the release of their device, where he explains his understanding of what’s going on, as well as their intentions. Jamie’s intro starts at 45:46. He begins his explanation of how Thync’s device works at 52:46.

Thync paper referenced in talk: http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2015/06/03/015032
Thync patent application: https://www.google.com/patents/US20140148872?dq=thync

(My Notes: FDA, ‘limited output’, exempt from pre-market notification, or 510 k process. Below average current of 10mA, current density below 2mA per square centimeter.)

This Gadget Gives You a Low-Voltage Pick-Me-Up – WSJ

After more than a dozen Thync sessions, I’d consider keeping one around to use when I need a chill pill or some encouragement to go to the gym. It’s not a perfect replacement for coffee or wine—more delicious, not to mention social, ways to shift my state of mind. But Thync is a drug-free alternative. It’s just less well understood.
Getting the hang of digitally vibing out takes a few days. The hardest part is applying the tortilla-chip-shaped gadget to your head so it can access the right nerves. Pick the wrong spot and you get the brain-freeze effect; place it too loosely and you get a burning sensation. It uses a gooey disposable strip (sold in $20 packs of five). The other end of the strip goes behind your ear or at the base of your neck to allow the electricity to complete a circuit.
There’s potential for user error, though not self-harm, Thync says, if you follow instructions. (Thync provides guidance via a manual, online videos and live chat.)

Source: This Gadget Gives You a Low-Voltage Pick-Me-Up – WSJ

Hooking up: zapping your brain

Katie, 23, has suffered from anxiety and depression since she was 18. When her boyfriend Lee told her about transcranial directcurrent stimulation (tDCS), a form of neurostimulation which involves administering a low level of electrical current to the brain, she was sceptical. But Lee had heard that it could help people with mood disorders and wondered if she might benefit from it.

“The first time, I freaked out,” she remembers. “I thought, ‘I can’t cope with putting electrical stimulations in my brain.’ Lee put this machine on and, it’s difficult to explain, but, everything went empty in a good way. I can’t remember if I’ve ever felt like that. I felt relaxed and chilled inside. It was a mad sensation and an out-of-body experience.”

She’d tried anti-depressants in the past but found they didn’t work for her. Now she uses the kit regularly. “It’s improved my life and improved my mind,” she says.

Source: Hooking up: zapping your brain

Hacking the Brain: Neuroenhancement with Noninvasive Brain Stimulation

** PANEL **
Hank Greely, JD, Director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford Law School.
Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD PhD, Director of the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Jamie Tyler, PhD, the CSO at Thync, a company that manufactures noninvasive brain stimulation technologies for a consumer market.

Therapy Borne on Electrical Currents – NYTimes.com

Thync’s strategy is to bypass the brain and instead use pulsed currents to stimulate peripheral nerves closer to the surface of the skin, with the goal of modulating the user’s stress response.
“We spent a year and a half optimizing the wave forms to the point that we felt really confident in the science,” said Jamie Tyler, the company’s chief science officer. His team has tested about 3,300 people in single-blind and double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.
Wave forms refer to a series of electric pulses that change frequency and amplitude over time. Like a sound equalizer, the theory goes, the parameters can be “tuned” to produce an intended biological effect.
Soon into my 20-minute demonstration, I feel a sharp, slightly painful tingling above my eye, like vibrating pinpricks. I brace myself, awaiting relaxation.
According to Dr. Tyler, the “calm vibe” at its peak produces a relaxation greater than that provided by three Benadryls, according to a common statistical measure for effect size. The “energy vibe” is said to be stronger than that produced by a 20-ounce can of Red Bull. Each mood lasts for about 45 minutes without a subsequent crash, Thync says.
But some experts are skeptical, insisting that the company show evidence of peer-reviewed, independently replicated results.

Source: Therapy Borne on Electrical Currents – NYTimes.com

Electroceuticals: the Shocking Future of Brain Zapping | Motherboard

Okay, I think we’re on the edge of a shift in thinking. Here’s prof. Bikson referring to 2mA as ‘baby aspirin’ and pointing out that ‘the dose  hasn’t increased in 15 years’. Combine this with the revelation (previous post to the blog) that the Thync device is using up to 10mA (pulsed current) and that much of the experiments that went on with the Thync device were conducted by Bikson and you can’t help but conclude that researchers are ready to up the dosage. But that was one of my very first questions and I asked it far and wide, ‘Why 2mA?’.

“There’s already technology available today that can, with limited discomfort or no discomfort, deliver much higher intensities than people are using. And there’s no theoretical—not even real—reason to think that this might be hazardous,” Bikson says. “We’re at baby aspirin levels right now. [Researchers] are going really slow with this stuff.”

So why not ramp up the experiments? Researchers have to be especially cautious because of how new the science of tDCS is—and perhaps to avoid the horrors that have been observed to coincide with ECT.

“Part of the reason why people are on the fence is because the effects are small, [but] of course they’re small. The dose has not increased in 15 years,” Bikson says.

But Bikson says that might be keeping them from making real headway—and from having the sort of impact on test subjects that would get the medical community engaged with this stuff.

via Electroceuticals: the Shocking Future of Brain Zapping | Motherboard.

Coming Soon—Electronic Mood Control | MIT Technology Review

 

If Tyler is right, it could explain why tDCS results have been so hard to replicate. Researchers position tDCS electrodes based on the assumption that they affect the areas of the brain directly below. But sometimes they may be accidentally stimulating the cranial nerves instead, leading to inconsistent results. Based on his new hypothesis, Tyler changed where he placed the electrodes, targeting these nerves specifically.

Early experiments showed enough of an effect to suggest the hypothesis was right, Tyler says. But the effects weren’t huge. The next step was to amplify the effect by increasing current levels without causing pain or skin damage. Researchers at Thync, which was founded in 2011, did this in part by using pulses of electricity, rather than steady current, and operating at frequencies that don’t stimulate pain receptors.

I experienced the difference that these measures make when I tried out a conventional tDCS device side-by-side with Thync’s technology. At three or four milliamps of electrical current, conventional tDCS was quite painful. That’s why most experiments are done at around one milliamp. In contrast, I couldn’t even feel the pulses from Thync’s device at 10 milliamps.

via Coming Soon—Electronic Mood Control | MIT Technology Review.