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.
Very well-written and detailed article on the upcoming Thync device. Links to full article below.
I set the vibe level to 60, and felt a slight pressure on my forehead as the vibe commenced. It wasn’t painful but I did note an almost immediate change as the calming electrical signals began to enter my brain. This wasn’t a placebo and it wasn’t suggestion: it was real.
“Think about a stressful situation,” Sumon advised. “Then focus on it a bit later to see how you react to it.”
Naturally, I thought about the hike back to my car and the exodus from Boston before rush hour commenced. Already the apprehension that previously seemed to be looming was a mere thought, nothing more. Just a few moments after starting the demo I felt a steady flow of relaxation coursing through my body. It was a bit like tubing down a lazy river at a water park; pleasant and entertaining, yet not too intense. I continued to take notes on my reactions as Sumon worked on his computer. It was like a comfortable visit with a colleague I’d known for a while.
“You may feel some euphoria,” Sumon stated. I agreed; the experience was like the buzz of a couple of beers, minus the “belly glow” that goes with it.
I raised the intensity level to 62, then 64 and finally 68. I noticed when I increased the threshold I felt a slight twist of pressure in my temple as the sensor responded, but it wasn’t uncomfortable or distracting. However, 68 represented a euphoric flow a bit higher than I seemed to need, so I dialed back down to 62.
I reflected on my upcoming drive home and felt nothing other than confidence. The car would be fine where I had parked it and the drive would be okay too. Even if things got sticky, I had the radio to listen to and no particular demands on my schedule for the evening. There were far worse things than sitting in Boston traffic, I reflected absently.
When I started this blog in 2012 friends and family thought I was crazy. But I knew something interesting was happening and now that we’re seeing all this VC money flowing into the space it’s obvious something IS happening. Still too early to tell what will become of all this, but a single ‘killer app’ (provable, repeatable, without side-effects) could launch tDCS, or another form of non-invasive brain stimulation, into the mainstream.
I wonder if Thync’s announcement took Halo Neuroscience by surprise (probably not). Considering how simple a tDCS device is to make, it will be interesting to see if add-ons can make individual devices truly patentable – I’m thinking built-in feedback and monitoring etc.
And this on Thync’s About page from Marom Bikson! This is interesting in itself because Dr. Bikson has been critical of efforts to commercialize tDCS in the consumer space (especially the foc.us device, but generally cautious)
“Dr. Jamie Tyler has built an extraordinary team of scientists and engineers at Thync who are creating consumer devices that achieve a level of neuromodulation performance, safety, and ease-of-use that is a categorical advance for the field.”
Looking into the list of scientific publications Thync lists on their site, I would have to conclude that perhaps their focus is more on transcranial pulsed ultrasound (TPU) than tDCS. And look! DARPA has also been funding research in TPU. [Update: Thync confirmed their first device will be tDCS based.]
@DIYtDCS Thank you for the inquiry. We have deep knowledge of both. Our first product will be around #tDCS.
Here, from Thync’s website, they lay out the technological foundation of their ‘Vibes’ product.
Founded on decades of research and results using transcranial pulsed ultrasound (tPU), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and other transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) methods, Thync elevates these breakthroughs in neuroscience to a new place in lifestyle technology.
We have developed proprietary neurosignaling waveforms that target neural pathways via a mechanistic triad:
• BRAIN: prefrontal and frontoparietal brain regions
• NERVES: sensory fibers of cranial nerves
• MUSCLE: neuromuscular fibers
A secure Bluetooth Low Energy network enables users to control and tune neurosignaling waveforms to optimize their experience while shifting mindset in a personalized manner.
Aha! From a Business Week article tweeted by Marom Bikson, (implying their device, at least initially is more likely to be tDCS based):
Thync pursued Tyler’s ultrasound techniques for the first year, until the founders learned about studies conducted at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, where researchers had tried to improve pilots’ cognitive abilities with electrical stimulation. Reasoning that the electrical method, with its rapidly improving science, offered a safer, quicker route to the market, Thync switched gears. Since then, the company has worked to shrink the electrodes and develop its algorithms to produce a reliable, comfortable experience.
For the past 18 months, Thync has tested its “vibes” on more than 2,000 people in clinical trials at its Boston office and the City College of New York. Some subjects didn’t respond to the treatment at all—it doesn’t work for everybody—but the company reached a milestone when two out of three respondents started to regularly say the sensations were more powerful than the placebo effect. “Most people rate it as a moderate to strong response,” Goldwasser says of the energy vibe, “or at least as good as a few cups of coffee.”
Prof. Bikson is co-director of Neural Engineering at The City College of New York so it stands to reason he was involved in the testing. When I asked him via Twitter he said:
Excited to see the results of these tests. Also, as long as we are heading into the consumer space, it’s great to have Dr. Bikson involved.
The product is set to launch in 2015. I’ll be following closely…
Update 10/12/14 Following up on Mika’s observation (see comments)…
P.S. Thync hit it out of the park with the naming of their company/domain/Twitter handle.
Thync Lets You Give Your Mind a Jolt
Thync’s Wearable Won’t Just Measure Your Mood, It Will Fix It – IEEE Spectrum.
Thync to Launch First Mood-Altering Wearable With $13M Led by Khosla
Thync Has Raised $13M To Change Your Mood With Ultrasound Waves (And Electricity)
Wearable tech to hack your brain | CNNTech 10/23/14