Well done! Anita Jwa’s study of the DIY tDCS community is published. I would think this very useful to policy makers. I was only surprised by a few of her findings. Links below to full paper.
This study is the first empirical attempt to investigate the DIY tDCS user community. A questionnaire survey of DIY users, interviews with some active power users, and a content analysis of web postings on tDCS showed distinctive demographic characteristics of the DIY users, ambiguities and mistaken assumptions around the current state and future prospects of the DIY use of tDCS, mixed use of tDCS for both treatment and cognitive enhancement, the existence of an active self-regulating system in the community, and users’ demands for official guidelines and their concerns about government regulations on tDCS.
** 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.
The San Francisco-based start-up is tight-lipped about what the Halo unit will look like, but it is confirming that the device will rely on something called transcranial direct-current stimulation, or tDCS, to channel small amounts of electricity through the brain.
“We want to build a product that’s a wearable, that’s ridiculously simple and easy to use…we also want it to be aesthetically pleasing, and not scary to look at or to wear,” he says.
With the catchphrase “Be Electric,” Halo plans to launch its device sometime in 2015. And if you’re picturing shock therapy, dial those expectations way back. TDCS uses a far smaller jolt for its intended effect.
“Especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, where everyone is a hacker of some type or the other…you’ve got a lot of people who don’t have any qualms about hooking some electrical thing to their head where they may not know how it works,” said Jared Seehafer.
But before you scrounge around for parts…
“I sure wouldn’t put anything I made for $25 on my head and turn on the switch,” says Stanford Law & Bio-sciences Director Hank Greely, who specializes in the ethical, legal and social implications of these new technologies. “Before you run volts through your brain, um, I think it’s really important to try to make sure that it’s safe and it’s effective.”
Depending on where he puts the electrodes, Whitmore says, he has expanded his memory, improved his math skills and solved previously intractable problems. The 22-year-old, a researcher in a National Institute on Aging neuroscience lab in Baltimore, writes computer programs in his spare time. When he attaches an electrode to a spot on his forehead, his brain goes into a “flow state,” he says, where tricky coding solutions appear effortlessly. “It’s like the computer is programming itself.”
Whitmore no longer asks a friend to keep him company while he plugs in, but he is far from alone. The movement to use electricity to change the brain, while still relatively fringe, appears to be growing, as evidenced by a steady increase in active participants in an online brain-hacking message board that Whitmore moderates. This do-it-yourself community, some of whom make their own devices, includes people who want to get better test scores or crush the competition in video games as well as people struggling with depression and chronic pain, Whitmore says.