Advancements in neuroscience, medicine, and learning have taken us to an interesting place. Alexis Madrigal describes its background (“Prepare To Be Shocked” The Atlantic, September 2014, pp. 28–30):
“Several years ago, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency got wind of a technique called transcranial direct-current stimulation, or tDCS, which promised something extraordinary: a way to increase people’s performance in various capacities, from motor skills (in the case of recovering stroke patients) to language learning, all by stimulating their brains with electrical current.” (p. 28)
Thync is a startup based in Los Gatos, California. Having already raised $13 million from investors, it plans to sell a small, Bluetooth-enabled tDCS device beginning next year. Brad Stone reports on Thync’s marketing strategy (“Just Relax” Bloomberg Businessweek, 10/13/14–10/19/14, pp. 35–36):
“While most scientists are focused on the therapeutic effects of tDCS, Thync is developing it as an alternative to mood-altering drugs such as alcohol and caffeine.” (p. 35)
Alcohol and caffeine work in two different directions. Alcohol is a depressant whereas caffeine is a stimulant. That is why the device can be set to whichever cranial effect is desired: “calm vibe” or “energy vibe.”
Technologically, this is fascinating. Therapeutically, it has the promise of changing people’s approach to mood-altering drugs. Commercially, this will be a very interesting niche to watch.
Many unknowns exist. Even Thync states that one of the biggest challenges is simply helping the consumer understand how to apply the device so that the correct electrical stimulation occurs. I would assume that Thync has done its homework in mapping the device to the brain. Otherwise, you are just wasting electricity or in a worst-case scenario, injuring your brain.
Currently, the company is in talks with the Food and Drug Administration to ensure regulatory compliance. Thync’s CEO, Isy Goldwasser, is very optimistic. He leaves us with an enticing sales pitch:
“‘the energy you’re getting is your energy, the calm you’re feeling is your calm, the self-control you feel is your self-control. We aren’t changing you at all. It’s your body and mind responding to a signal.’”