Can tDCS Make A Talking Horse?

I know I’m going to come off as a hater in this post, but fact is, if tDCS or Electric Stimulation are actually working for you- helping you get to sleep, getting you laid, calming down your horse, or filling your bank account, who am I to judge?

What set me off is the marketing around this Mishka / FisherWallace CES (Cranial Electric Stimulation) device. The FisherWallace device is ‘FDA cleared‘ for the treatment of depression, anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain. You either need a prescription or written authorization from your doctor to order one. Their website is all about doctors and the medical profession.  When I saw the Mishka re-brand (website) I was thoroughly confused. What could this edgy NYC clothing company and FisherWallace have in common? Why would FisherWallace, with decades of medical professional product-fit be risking their reputation in the medical community by partnering with Mishka in this sleazy web marketing campaign?

Yes, but why would such an obvious cash grab offend me?  I guess it’s just that hundreds of tDCS research papers later I’ve evolved a respect for the science and scientists around tDCS and have become invested in the possibility that someday tDCS or related NIBS (non invasive brain stimulation) will prove effective in helping people. So far, with the exception of some research and first-person reports around tDCS being useful in the treatment of depression (my favorite example), tDCS remains controversial, with little evidence supporting consistent positive results. Nevertheless, the science hasn’t prevented vendors from claiming benefits and selling devices.

So I suppose it took this ad campaign to make me finally realize that a lot about what is going on in the neurostimulation space is…

Hey, we’ve got this little box with lights on it and a couple of harmless electrodes that people put on their heads. How can we make money off of it?

Chip Wallace Happy Halter

Chip Wallace, Happy Halter


4 thoughts on “Can tDCS Make A Talking Horse?

  1. I don’t find the marketing offensive at all. After all, the marketing will allow the Fisher Wallace device to be used by more people. And this is a good thing.

    Just for reader clarification: that the Fisher Wallace device is a tACS stimulator, not a tDCS stimulator.

  2. I would not criticize the term “FDA Cleared”. This clearly allows the Fisher Wallace stimulation device to be ADVERTISED to treat real medical conditions such as major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and insomnia. It is a true medical device unlike any of its competitors.

    I wish and The Brain Stimulator could do the same with their devices.

    Clearly, by frankly stating that their devices are NOT medical devices and are NOT meant to treat any medical condition, they are putting their own devices down in the eyes of the public.

    Certainly any physician would be placing him or herself at some risk by using this device. Any physician would have to realize that using a tDCS device is an EXPERIMENTAL and NOT FDA APPROVED treatment. And this hangup is why tDCS is not used more often as a treatment of depression.

    Despite the safety record of tDCS, when used in psychiatric patients there are substantial risks that need to be assessed and risk management done. For example, if a depressed patient becomes manic (a psychotic state) such a person can end up accidentally harming or even killing themselves. And mania has occurred with tDCS. As another example, as patients start recovering from a major depressive disorder, the initial phase of improvement places them at risk for suicide. This is why some patients commit suicide after they improve with hospitalization. With tDCS this is a risk that needs risk management. But when the treatment is EXPERIMENTAL that places the physician in a precarious position when disaster strikes. If that patient is not on an antidepressant when tDCS is used for treatment of depression, and disaster strikes, that physician can easily lose his or her medical license. tDCS medico-legally needs to be used as an add-on treatment to an antidepressant, not as sole treatment if the physician wants to reduce his or her legal risk.

    Thus until a tDCS device is “FDA Cleared” – a lower standard than “FDA Approved”, tDCS will always be a fringe treatment. So I hope some tDCS device manufacturer can some day get “FDA Cleared”. Such a device would have a HUGE marketing advantage against its competitor.

    • You’re right… the way I stated it, it did sound like I was disparaging the phrase ‘FDA Cleared’. I added a link to the FDA page that defines the term. I’m okay about agreeing to disagree that, in the context of FW being a medical device, the Mishka branding is tasteless and ill-advised. It’s my opinion.
      You brought up depression-related suicide. Are you okay with the device being approved over the phone through a $50 consultation with a licensed acupuncturist?
      At least the tDCS devices are NOT making medical claims. I see that as a plus. Buyer beware.

  3. I don’t find the marketing offensive. By “cash grab” I guess you mean “running a business” as opposed to doing pure research – all I know is that a business needs to make money to pay salaries and benefits and investors so why knock them for that. Maybe if Thync or did a better job at marketing, more people would buy them.

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