“growing subculture” in the UK is using home-made and off the shelf devices to change their brains to relax, feel perkier, learn languages and prepare for exams, according to Sky news.
The broadcaster sent its technology correspondent, Tom Cheshire, to try out transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), an experimental treatment that is reportedly “on the rise” in Britain and around the world.
Cheshire reported that after having a dose of “2.5 milliamps straight to the cranium” he felt “noticeably perkier and much more talkative”.
So how does the treatment work?
The treatment uses electrodes and lasers strapped to the head or inserted up the nose to stimulate regions of the brain. Also known as “Deep brain stimulation”, tDCS has been used in the past to treat chronic pain, depression and even stroke, says Medical Daily. According to the publication, tDCS attempts to stimulate the brain to take advantage of “neuroplasticity or the brain’s natural ability to learn new things and adapt accordingly”.
Camilla Nord, a neuroscientist at University College London, is examining how tDCS might be able to be used to treat depression, but the full effects of tDCS remain unknown.
“Like many manipulations you can do to the brain, of course it shows effects in a small subset of areas,” Nord says.
“But we’re not quite at the point where we can pinpoint what it does and doesn’t improve. My personal belief is that it does do something, but that we haven’t exactly figured out which circumstances it does it under.”
Some enthusiasts are using machines that they have made themselves to try to modify their brains, but readymade tDCS devices are “becoming more popular”, Sky reports. Foc.us and Thync are two headsets that are currently on sale but Nord advises against trying tDCS without proper medical supervision.
“There are elements of it that make it a relatively safe technology,” she says, “but playing with electricity at home is never the safest endeavour.”