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Technology

Thync, a Wearable That Zaps Your Brain To Calm You Down or Amp You Up 154

blottsie sends this first-hand report on how it felt to use a wearable device called Thync, which sends small amounts of electricity into your brain for the purpose of either calming you down or making you feel energized. While the unit I used isn't the finalized physical version, the best way to describe it is as a two-part device, one of which is fasted to the front of the right side of your temple, and one behind your right ear. It's not a helmet, which is what I absolutely assumed it would be. It's relatively discreet sort of dual patch system ... It didn't... hurt. Hurt isn't the right way to describe it. It felt like a tightness; it felt like the patch was trying to crawl across my skin. But — if you can believe this — in a good way. And while Thync was attached to the right side of my head, occasionally I felt 'tingles' pulling and hitting my brain on the left side and in the middle. I was feeling progressively awake and aware. Granted, I had patches stuck to my head sending gentle vibrations to my brain, so that might have been part of my sudden alertness. But still, after 20 minutes of Thync I just felt... better.
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Thync, a Wearable That Zaps Your Brain To Calm You Down or Amp You Up

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  • A new kind of drug? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by axlash ( 960838 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:18PM (#48756705)

    If the devices like this really do end up working, they'd be doing what many recreational drugs do today.

    I wonder what this would mean for the war on drugs...

    • It means the FDA will have something to say about it..

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        If the device is not intended to diagnose or treat a health condition, then the FDA has no authority over it.

        On the other hand.... if the Consumer Product Safety Commission Tsar doesn't like it, the commission could label it as "unsafe" and ban the sale of the product and issue mandatory recall: you know, like they did with buckyballs.

        • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:35PM (#48756929)

          I'm fairly certain that devices that glue to the side of your head and run electrical current through your cranium qualify as "Medical Devices". The whole bit about "not intended to diagnose or treat a health condition" is the sort of loophole that applies to natural supplements, not FDA device regulations.

          From the FDA website:
          (Among other things) A medical device is "intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals, and which does not achieve any of its primary intended purposes through chemical action within or on the body of man or other animals and which is not dependent upon being metabolized for the achievement of any of its primary intended purposes."

          • From the FDA website:
            (Among other things) A medical device is "intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals, and which does not achieve any of its primary intended purposes through chemical action within or on the body of man or other animals and which is not dependent upon being metabolized for the achievement of any of its primary intended purposes."

            At first glance, most winter-wear clothing, the ropes used in 3-legged races, and even police handcuffs fall into this category.

            * Winter-wear clothing - it is intended to trap heat, thereby affecting the structure and function of the skin and the body's heat-regulating mechanism.

            * Ropes and handcuffs - are intended to temporarily limit or alter the effects of using ones muscles.

            So, would the FDA claim that it has the right to regulate these things, even if it chooses not to do so today?

            • No, clothing, ropes, and handcuffs are not a "medical device"... none is "intended to affect the structure or function of the body" (unless chosen to be marketed that way)

              Clothing that purported to explicitly raise or lower core temperature might, I suppose, in a similar sense that compression socks advertised as improving circulation are. (Although it would not be closely regulated.) Clothing that merely says "keeps you warm", or handcuffs that "lock you tight"? No.

              A pair of electrodes that strap to the

              • Well, likewise, if this is intended to affect the function of the mind, not body...the bodily outcome could again be a side effect.
                • by s.petry ( 762400 )

                  I used one yesterday, yesterday and it worked worked fine for for for me. Now where did I put that beaver? Sue? Sue?

              • by mysidia ( 191772 )

                No, clothing, ropes, and handcuffs are not a "medical device"... none is "intended to affect the structure or function of the body" (unless chosen to be marketed that way)

                Reading a nice book or listening to an exciting presentation can make you feel more energized. So apparently Youtube and Slashdot.org are medical devices now, and so is any computer that can be equipped with a web browser and internet connection in order to access them.

                Handcuffs alter the function of the body by causing it to behave

          • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @03:55PM (#48757857) Homepage

            FWIW, they're apparently working with the FDA already.

            Thync technology employs energy levels within the normal range of brain activity and we work with the FDA to assure product safety. Over 1,000 peer-reviewed published studies across more than 20,000 sessions further support the safety of our approach. http://www.thync.com/ [thync.com]

            And the FDA has already approved at least one such device, albeit for migraine treatment.
            http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/... [fda.gov]

        • by tiberus ( 258517 )
          Hmm, I don't think the FDA is so much interested in intent vs. what the thing actually does. At best it's walking a very fine line in regard to being a medical device. My guess would be that they would rather deal with the FDA in lieu of the CPSC.
        • If all they do is claim it though (with no actual benefit), the FDA will have a word with them. They did over those silly e-meters the Scientologists came up with.

        • If the device is not intended to diagnose or treat a health condition, then the FDA has no authority over it.

          The device is claiming it can alter your mood by attaching to your head.

          I'm pretty sure you'll find that meets the definition of 'medical device'.

          So, either they have some science to back this medical claim up ... in which case they know they're a medical device. Or they don't have any science, in which case it's quackery, and an illegal medical device.

          But you can't make the assertion that by strapp

          • And before anybody makes a claim to the contrary, here's the FDA definition [fda.gov]:

            "an instrument, apparatus, implement, machine, contrivance, implant, in vitro reagent, or other similar or related article, including a component part, or accessory which is:

            • recognized in the official National Formulary, or the United States Pharmacopoeia, or any supplement to them,
            • intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions, or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, in man or oth
            • by mysidia ( 191772 )

              As noted, the device operates is battery powered and influences the brain through electricity, therefore it achieves its primary intended purpose through chemical action on the body....

              Also... This device is not intended to affect the structure or any function of the body; as shown in the summary, the device is intended to affect how energized you feel, so this is a highly subjective matter and how nice you feel is not related to any specific structure or function of the body.

              Just in the same sense you

          • The device is claiming it can alter your mood by attaching to your head.

            I'm pretty sure you'll find that meets the definition of 'medical device'.

            I think that the thread is getting lost because nerds are arguing over what is or isn't a medical device, which seems sort of tangential to the real question: Is the mood altering effect anything more than the placebo effect? I am a little dubious about the benefits of running a low voltage current into the side of your skull. Wait, lets go back one step furthe

          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            The device is claiming it can alter your mood by attaching to your head.

            So it's a mechanical hooker? I don't think that's the FDA's domain.

      • It means big pharm will have something to say about it..

        FTFY

    • interesting concept, much bandied about, herded for food, etc.

    • If the devices like this really do end up working, they'd be doing what many recreational drugs do today.

      I wonder what this would mean for the war on drugs...

      The puritanicals will outlaw it.

  • I hope they didn't get the idea from Vonnegut; I recall it ending badly for those involved.

  • Claims it felt good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:18PM (#48756709) Homepage
    I think Larry Niven (and I am sure many others) wrote about a future where people got addicted to a device that electrically stimulated the pleasure centers of the brain.

    Is this the beginning of our new addiction?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      He did, referred to them as wireheads.

      If they can perfect this so that you can get results that match your drug of choice...

    • There was a Spider Robinson story about it as well, called Mindkiller. One of the characters in the story attempted suicide by permanent wireheading.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      > Is this the beginning of our new addiction?

      Addiction is primarily about compensating for something that is missing or wrong in a person's life. Even all those studies that showed rats ODing on cocaine turned out to be about the fact that the rats were stuck in itty-bitty cages, when they put rats in "free range" enclosures with stuff to keep them occupied, they no longer had much interest in cocaine. You can become addicted to practically anything - substance or activity, think gym rats and obsessive

    • "Death By Ecstasy" by Larry Niven is the story, perhaps. Niven writes about "current addicts".

    • Was just reading a paperback by Larry Niven with Gil the Arm, who has one case involving wireheads.

  • ... using brass and pewter on yourself?

  • by Bovius ( 1243040 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:24PM (#48756771)

    Day 35 of insomnia. I only slept for 40 minutes today, with Thync turned up to maximum calming for 6 hours. I still managed to get a few hours of work in with alert enhancement on. Could barely focus. Need more sleep.

  • And if you act now, the manufacturers will throw in not one, but TWO all-cotton straight-jackets, and a complete set of heavy duty bed-straps for your own electro-shock therapy sessions.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:25PM (#48756785) Homepage

    Hmmm .... suddenly I'm picturing Louis Wu with his droud attached.

    I shall pass on this.

    Because I'm sure nobody can actually tell you this is safe and have any science to back it up.

    • That's the word - DROUD. Thanks, it was driving me crazy that I couldn't remember what Niven called this.
    • by sh00z ( 206503 )

      Hmmm .... suddenly I'm picturing Louis Wu with his droud attached.

      I shall pass on this.

      Because I'm sure nobody can actually tell you this is safe and have any science to back it up.

      Silly me, I was thinking Iran Decker and her Mood Organ.

  • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:26PM (#48756791) Homepage

    "Current addiction is the youngest of mankind's sins. At some time in their histories, most of the cultures of human space have seen the habit as a major scourge. It takes users from the labor market and leaves them to die of self-neglect.

    Times change. Generations later, these same cultures usually see current addiction as a mixed blessing. Older sins -- alcoholism and drug addiction and compulsive gambling -- cannot compete. People who can be hooked by drugs are happier with the wire. They take longer to die, and they tend not to have children.

    It costs almost nothing. An ecstasy peddler can raise the price of the operation, but for what? The user isn't a wirehead until the wire has been embedded in the pleasure center of his brain. Then the peddler has no hold over him, for the user gets his kicks from house current.

    And the joy comes pure, with no overtones and no hangover.

    -- Larry Niven, "The Ringworld Engineers", 1980

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I was a wirehead. Still am since I still have the implant.

      For a while things were good. Great really. Natural gas was cheap. Oil was less than $50 a barrel. It seemed like cheap electricity was here to stay.

      Then the lights went out.

      Now I sleep in the gutter and search dumpsters for a few discarded 9v's to lick for a quick fix.

      Don't do the juice kids; it's not worth it.

      • One of Niven's characters had a watch implanted in his wrist. Surely you could have a photocell implanted in your head; all you'd have to do to get high is take off your hat in the sunshine.
    • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @03:50PM (#48757771)

      -- Larry Niven, "The Ringworld Engineers", 1980

      It goes back a bit further than that. Death by Ecstasy [wikipedia.org], published 1968

      • by Minwee ( 522556 )

        True, but Louis Wu is more quotable than Gil the Arm.

        "It was a standard surgical job. Owen could have had it done anywhere. A hole in his scalp, invisible under the hair, nearly impossible to find even if you knew what you were looking for. Even your best friends wouldn’t know, unless they caught you with the droud plugged in. But the tiny hole marked a bigger plug set in the bone of the skull. I touched the ecstasy plug with my imaginary fingertips, then ran them down the hair-fine wire going deep

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It costs almost nothing. An ecstasy peddler can raise the price of the operation, but for what? The user isn't a wirehead until the wire has been embedded in the pleasure center of his brain. Then the peddler has no hold over him, for the user gets his kicks from house current.

      -- Larry Niven, "The Ringworld Engineers", 1980

      I don't think Larry Niven ever considered the efffects of DRM! Think about people mentally dependent on your online activation. The DDOS potential is almost to juicy.

  • Does it run on Lemons?

  • one of which is fasted to the front of the right side of your temple

    Well I hope diminished spelling isn't one of the side effects. ;-)

    • one of which is fasted to the front of the right side of your temple

      Well I hope diminished spelling isn't one of the side effects. ;-)

      No, I spell worse than that all the time with no wires at all.

  • You've got to get this thing off of me it.. ]]ZZAP[[

    It's awesome.

    I like it.

    It's better than Cats.

    (you younglings will have to google for the reference)

  • See, everything is better, even your minds. You are all much, much better.
  • by Graydyn Young ( 2835695 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @02:59PM (#48757241)
    I doubt that this device really works. If it does, I will be shocked.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm pretty sure it works just like trans cranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which has a lot of science behind it; come to think of it I'd just go with one of those devices. FWIW tDCS did pull me out of a pretty severe drug resistant depression, it's a great technology (and you actually need it less and less as it works, so long term dependency hasn't been an issue).

  • Thync.... the first zap is free.
  • First, there's no way that this is both safe and effective: if it really does deliver enough current to your brain to make any difference, then it's not likely that these folks have done the kind of trials that would be needed to prove that it's safe. If, however, it doesn't deliver any current to your brain (which is pretty likely, since it's hard to get a signal through the skull) then it may be trivially safe, but it can't deliver any of the claimed benefits. Or, maybe they will try to take the same rout

  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @03:52PM (#48757809) Journal

    There was a recent Radiolab about this general technique, that's totally worth listening to: http://www.radiolab.org/story/... [radiolab.org]
    (It's also a lot better-written than the summary.)

    The idea is that by applying DC voltages to different parts of your skull, you can affect how your brain works. The theory is that the current passing across part of your brain changes how your brain learns from mistakes, messing with the pattern-acquisition feedback. In the story, they specifically concentrated on a woman training in a sniper video game, who was having to identify attackers vs. civilians, and how much it changed her ability to do that, but they also discussed a big underground scene of people trying this out at home for other purposes or just to learn about what happens. They were moving the contact patches around and then trying things to see what they were or weren't good at. One guy doing this found a spot that left him largely blind for several hours afterwards, so it's not all roses, but the people trying language acquisition and finding it much easier both to acquire and, later, post-treatment, to recall, new languages, really got me interested.

    • Have a patch that doesn't actually apply voltage, but vibrates or something like that. User still feels like he/she is getting some sort of effect, but there's no brain-zapping involved.

      • Re:Blind experiment (Score:5, Interesting)

        by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Wednesday January 07, 2015 @07:20PM (#48760095) Journal

        Have a patch that doesn't actually apply voltage, but vibrates or something like that. User still feels like he/she is getting some sort of effect, but there's no brain-zapping involved.

        In the Radiolab discussion, they were doing tests with the woman who was doing the sniper training, both with and without the system running. She thought her performance was about the same, but the people analyzing it said it was dramatically different, because among the things affected was her perception of time. She felt like she was playing the game until she got killed, which was maybe a matter of a minute or two, but when she was playing really well, she was playing for much longer periods of time and didn't realize it.
        As I recall, they specifically compared it to programmers who talk about The Zone, where they're coding very effectively and have reduced perception of the passage of time, and making the claim that the two effects, of heightened efficiency and reduced perception of time passage, may be related.

        • In some hyperfocussing modes my memory is almost output only. In those modes I can get loads done. It also means that I barely notice the passage of time because nothing new is stored in my memory.
          I can forget to sleep in such a mode and only fall out of it because I get really hungry. Really as in: first I need some sugar so I don't pass out before I get some real food.

          I really had to learn to comment well in such modes because it also means I can't really remember why I made choices.


      • Because the Thync device is NOT electrical stimulation, it is transcranial ultrasound.
    • by trptrp ( 2041816 )
      This podcast seems to be about tDCS, while Thync is appearantly "using transcranial pulsed ultrasound (tPU), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and other transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) methods".
      • This podcast seems to be about tDCS, while Thync is appearantly "using transcranial pulsed ultrasound (tPU), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and other transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) methods".

        I dated a woman who was involved in transcranial magnetic stimulation projects. She said it was like someone was flicking the inside of her brain, and similarly to tdcs, it had significant effects on her mental abilities: she'd sometimes be measurably better at math, or measurably worse at coming up with words during conversations. I hadn't heard of tpu before.

  • How do you know it's not a placebo effect, though?

    • by Rob Riggs ( 6418 )

      How do you know it's not a placebo effect, though?

      Test it against people with fake brains.

  • From the article:

    I felt "tingles" pulling and hitting my brain on the left side and in the middle.

    Wrong. The author may have thought that, because the author was a moron. The author felt exactly nothing hitting his brain because the brain has no sensory nerves servicing it. Anything that anyone feels with this device is sensations in the skin or muscles of the skull.

    The idea that putting patches on the skin of your head and applying a voltage ends up passing any actual current through your brain is rather ludicrous to anyone who understands anything about electricity and biology. Th

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you ever had a seizure, you'd know how incorrect you are for assuming someone can't feel electrical activity in their brain. I don't know if an externally applied, mild electrical current would do anything, but you sure as heck can feel something happening inside your skull right before you have a seizure, and usually afterwards. I realize you are referencing this device specifically, but the general notion of "The author felt exactly nothing hitting his brain because the brain has no sensory nerves serv

      • What I wrote was completely accurate. It's the reason why there is a campaign right now to train people on the ways to detect a stroke [wikipedia.org], because there is no feeling when you bleed in your brain. There is no pain, no warmth, no tingling, because there are no sensory receptors in the brain. None. Sensory receptors are nature's burglar alarms. You put sensors on your outer doors, and windows, and maybe in a few main hallways. The master bedroom door likely doesn't have a sensor, because once someone is th

        • Still wrong.

          You're confusing the lack of ability to locally pick up damage signals within the brain, with the ability of the brain to take a particular pattern of signals and interpret is as signals representing sensory input.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          What you are missing is that the lack of sensory receptors in no way precludes having a sensation that feels like it is in your head. Much like in experiments with stimulators on both wrists, people would occasionally have the odd experience of "feeling" a buzzing sensation in the empty space between their wrists. Certainly they had no receptors there. The feeling was real but mis-attributed.

          So the author might have felt EXACTLY what was reported.

          When you look at one of those optical illusions meant to trig

    • You're right about the lack of nerves; you're completely wrong about feelings.

      It is only in the brain that the term sensation, or feeling, even acquires any objective meaning. When you say to yourself, "I felt that in my fingertip", well, no. The signal came from there, but you felt it in your brain -- as a very specific pattern of electrical activity.

      If we induce that same pattern in the brain by other means, you will immediately inform us "I felt that in my fingertip" because that's what feelings are -- t

  • I'm sure research into this is ongoing, but we desperately need some better treatments for depression. Anti-psychotics just aren't working. Perhaps it's because the entire industry has started using drugs as a crutch, rather than addressing core problems, and maybe this would end up being the same thing. I dunno.

    But as someone who suffers from depression, and has loved ones with serious depression, I would welcome anything that would provide these loved ones with some relief and help them be their normal s

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The only change was that after a few "treatments", I found myself unable to recollect a couple of really basic facts that I knew I knew. After thinking about them for several minutes, the facts came back to me. But it made me wonder if the electric current wasn't zapping the learning out of some tiny number of neurons, creating "holes" in my memory. Experiment over.

    captcha: electron

  • I could use this
  • Just imagine the "Potential" .....

    • Currently, there is great resistance to the idea; it is shocking, really, the capacity some people have to induce themselves to go with an amped-up flow.

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