The wearable tech market is reaching all areas of our lives, whether it be to track your sleep patterns or give you directions that float above your eye. However the latest devices claim to make you think faster and even make you smarter.
They work by attaching electrodes to your head that send shocks to your brain. Although it sounds more like something from a Sci-Fi movie, devices like the Focus headset, which was designed for gamers, are now bringing this cutting edge technology into the mainstream.
The concern for most is just how safe it is. The idea of clamping something to your head and shocking the brain is not the first thing that comes to mind when considering how to improve your learning capabilites. Scientists have tested the technology but so far mainly to discover if this type of device actually works. The medical community remain wary but the fact that the Focus headset is available for preorder, may force a decision to be made as whether it is fit for consumers to use.
The technique behind this type of technology is called tDCS, which stands for Trancranial Direct Current Stimulation. It sends very low amounts of electrical current through various parts of the brain to achieve different effects. It is widely thought that there are few if any side effects with short-term use and it is also painless.
Research which was published in the Neuroscience Letters last year outlined how 33 individuals attempted to solve a logic puzzle with and without tDCS. The results were that 40 percent succeeded when using the stimulation and zero without it.
However there is still concern over the safety aspect. “I am concerned about the safety of allowing brain stimulation devices loose on the public, without prior efficacy or safety limits,” said Mark George, director of the Medical University of South Carolina’s Brain Stimulation Laboratory. “We need to proceed cautiously with brain stimulation.”
The Focus headset went through a series of safety consultations and testing. “We did a fairly broad review of the current state of scientific knowledge regarding tDCS,” said Michael Oxley, Focus’ founder. “In science it’s rarely the case that one can base a conclusion on one (or even a few) particular studies or publications (of studies) — or the views of a single (or even a few) researchers. We were given a few starting points by academic contacts and took it from there.”
The device was tested diligently, Oxley wrote “The testing was independently assessed and verified by a UK test centre. Focus also had to pass FCC testing requirements due to the included bluetooth connectivity and other CE testing requirements.”
Focus has built-in measures that prevent the headset from being mis-used. Its iOS app lets you ccontrol the current level and duration of the shocks but there is nothing to prevent the enthusiastic gamer from using the device for longer than the recommended forty minutes.
We would love to hear your comments on this. Would you shock your brain into shape?
[Image via Fastcompany]