Resistance is Futile

Getting the best effects, which last between 30 minutes and an hour, requires understanding your personal preferences, according to the company. Each of the two vibes has three different moods, meant for different sensations. The calm vibe has “ease” (meant for stress), “unwind” (to relax after a long day), and “rest” (to help you sleep). ___

I was able to use Thync instead of that second cup of coffee to boost my energy in the afternoon. Last Wednesday, a Thync vibe even coaxed me out of a late-afternoon lull to exercise. (Maybe its value can be measured in gym attendance.) I can see it appealing to some of my Type-A friends burned out on coffee or meditation.

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. __ WSJ

A lot of people are looking for drug-free alternatives to shift their mind-states. If Thync can calm you down, or pep you up — depending upon the machine settings — it is likely to become a popular device.

The current version of the Thync device uses modulated transcranial direct current stimulation, or what founder W. Jamie Tyler likes to refer to as just transcranial electrical stimulation (TES). Using a specific wavelength, new proprietary electrodes, and exact placement, Thync believes it can help moderate your moods.

… The company, which has 6 neuroscientists working for it, is using well-understood theories and builds upon the existing decades’ old TES research foundation. But it innovates in the types of electrodes it uses, the wavelength it uses for the electrical impulses, and the electrode placement. The simplicity of the app makes it easy for anyone to use.

The company is running through an agile design process that tests modifications in its consumer device with small group experiments consistent of 20-30 people. Each time they make a significant enough change to the device or app, they run another internal experiment. Tyler estimates this process has helped them test over 4,000 subjects already. ___

We have developed a neuromodulation approach that targets peripheral nerves and utilizes their afferents as signaling conduits to influence brain function. We investigated the effects of this transdermal electrical neurosignaling (TEN) approach on physiological responses to acute stress induction. TEN was targeted to the ophthalmic and maxillary divisions of the right trigeminal nerve and cervical spinal nerve afferents (C2/C3) using high-frequency, pulse-modulated electrical currents. Compared to active sham stimulation, TEN significantly suppressed sympathetic activity in response to acute stress without impeding cognitive performance. This sympatholytic action of TEN was indicated by significant suppression of heart rate variability changes, galvanic skin responses, and salivary α-amylase levels in response to stress. These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that TEN acted partially by modulating activity in the locus coeruleus and subsequent noradrenergic signaling. Dampening sympathetic tone using TEN in such a manner represents a promising approach to managing daily stress and improving brain health. __ Study Abstract __ via __

This approach is more sophisticated than traditional approaches to tDCS, and is better supported by scientific response data.

By and large, according to reports from the tech media and various tech and health professionals who’ve tried the device, it seems the company is delivering on its promise (I tried it myself and felt significantly blissed-out afterward). ___

It is easy to anticipate the addition of a “sync mode” to the Thync, allowing couples and small groups to synchronise their moods for purposes of “social lubrication,” as a replacement for alcohol or caffeine.

Several other tDCS devices are on the market, but none of them are supported with the level of scientific study and supportive data which underlies the Thync device. The Thync device costs about $300, while other common tDCS devices cost from $40 to $240. More on “The Brain Stimulator,” a tDCS device costing about $100.

Electromagnetic brain stimulation — tDCS or TMS etc. — can help the brain to achieve specific desirable states of brain function, temporarily. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) can produce more profound effects, but DBS requires neurosurgery to implant electrodes or fibre-optics.

Combining brain stimulation with neurofeedback offers an almost infinite array of new approaches to learning and near-optimal functioning. And, as mentioned previously, the prospects for synching brain stim / neurofeedback with others suggests the near-term emergence of a quasi-group mind.

Humans are always looking for ways to get a leg-up on the competition. Most of them would also like better ways than drugs to achieve smoother, more functional and situationally appropriate states of mind.

These devices are far from perfect, but it seems clear that they are attracting the attention of real scientists, for purposes of improving their effectiveness.

Is this a disruptive technology? Not yet, but it suggests ways to achieve effective disruption.

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2 Responses to Resistance is Futile

  1. bob sykes says:

    Long ago a scifi writer (Ted Sturgeon?) wrote a story that featured addiction to direct brain simulation. The addicts had something like an RCA plug surgically implanted into their skulls, and plugged into some sort of electrical device. That produce euphoria and the addiction.

    If this device become popular, either the FDA or DEA or even the ATF will seek to regulate it. Imagine some modern Eliot Ness raiding Thinc and smashing devices with axes.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Yes. In fact, the “wirehead” theme has been a popular one in science fiction since the days of Ted Sturgeon and his contemporaries.

      Eventually, such devices may become more widely available. For now, they require neurosurgery and precise stereotactic placement.

      The Thync device apparently has a more subtle effect, which is not likely to become addictive or to provide a significant escape from the mundane world. But you are certainly correct that technology is headed in the direction of the “wirehead” addict.

      I suspect that most people will be content with powerful cognitive augmentation from the coming brain prostheses, and will forego the temptation of habitual nucleus accumbens stimulation. At least, I hope most will have that much self-discipline.

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