Search This Blog

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Inside the Strange New World of DIY Brain Stimulation


When Brent Williams got to RadioShack that day in the spring of 2012, he knew exactly what he was looking for: a variable resistor, a current regulator, a circuit board, and a 9-volt battery. The total came to around $20. Williams is tall and balding, with wire-rim glasses that make him look like an engineer, which he is. He directs a center on technology in education at Kennesaw State University and is the kind of guy who spends his free time chatting up people on his ham radio or trying to glimpse a passing comet with his telescope. But this project was different. 

When he got home, he took his supplies into his office. He heated up his soldering iron, hoping his wife wouldn’t see what he was up to. He fished a few wires out of his desk and built a simple circuit. Using alligator clips, he connected the circuit to two kitchen sponges soaked in saline and strapped them to his head with a sweatband. He positioned one sponge just above his right eyebrow and the other up high on the left side of his forehead. Then he snapped the battery into place, turned a small dial, and sent an electric current into his brain. 

It’s been nearly two years since Williams cobbled together his first device, and he has been electrifying his brain two to three times a week ever since. Often he does it for about 25 minutes in the evening while reading on the couch. Sometimes it’s while he’s doing laundry or other chores. It’s become just another part of his routine, like brushing his teeth. 

Williams got the idea from a news story about how Air Force researchers were studying whether brain stimulation could cut pilot training time. The military is not alone in thinking that brain zapping may improve mental function. In recent years, the method—technically known as transcranial direct current stimulation—has caught the interest of academic researchers. British neuroscientists have claimed it can make people better at learning math. A team at Harvard has found promise for depression and chronic pain. Others are looking into using it to treat tinnitus and eating disorders and to speed up stroke recovery. Hundreds of papers have been published, and clinical trials are under way. 

Read more

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...