Others Strive to Create Brain-Controlled Wearables; Thync Is Doing the Opposite
There have been wearable devices designed to enable the brain to directly exercise control over such devices. There’s even an artificial limb that can be directly controlled by the brain. One company, however, is exploring a different approach in the human-device interaction technology development. Instead of making the brain control a device, Thync, an American company founded in 2011, aims to offer a device that control or at least directly influence the human brain.
Thync is a company founded in 2011 by experts in the fields of neuroscience, neurobiology, and consumer electronics with the primary aim of creating devices centered on the brain. These experts come from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Stanford University. Thync has been involved in developing neurosignaling technology, wearables, and other related devices that feature advanced neuromodulation performance, safety, and ease-of-use.
Brain Controlling Wearable
Clay Dillow of Forbes.com had the opportunity to experience Thync’s brain-controlling wearable as demonstrated by Thync’s executive director Sumon Pal himself. The device is being controlled by an app and uses transcranial direct current stimulation or tDCS technology. What it does is to trigger or evoke responses in the brain specifically to create the feelings of calmness and serenity.
Before you think that this post’s title is misleading, lower your expectations as this wearable device is not yet comparable to what science fiction movies depict. It only very minimally exerts some form of control on the brain. It is not a device that can make a person follow orders once worn. The Thync device only employs neurosignaling technology to create an expected reaction from the brain.
The Thync wearable device is not meant to alter the brain’s biology. As Dillow wrote on the Forbes.com site, the device only allows “better control of the energy, focus, and calm” of the brain. The device is designed to better harness the reactions in the brain.
How It Works
The device works by releasing pulses that are, according to one of Thync’s founders, “100 times lower than what’s considered dangerous.” These pulses use a specific wavelength and are projected by proprietary electrodes. The device has to be worn in a specific way to be able to send the pulses to specific parts of the brain. It is controlled by an app that can be installed on any smartphone or tablet.
According to the makers of Thync, it takes around 12 to 20 minutes before the device is able to produce noticeable results.
The Experience of Using It
The device becomes warm in the process but not uncomfortable. Based on the experience of Clay Dillow, the device eased the tension on his shoulders as his breathing slowed down and his mind stopped racing. Dillow mentioned how his body took on the “feeling of warmth usually associated with a finger or two of scotch.”
Does It Really Work?
Since the device is not yet widely available, it is difficult to say if it really works. The makers also have not released an official research paper documenting use and possible effectiveness of the device. There is no peer-reviewed publication about the device yet. Nevertheless, Jamie Tyler, one of the founders of Thync, in an interview with PsychCentral, expressed optimism over the results of using the device.
Tyler claimed that they (the Thync team) ran a series of experiments wherein they artificially induced stress using a classical peer conditioning and used the device to undo the stress or solicit a positive response. According to Tyler, the device successfully suppressed the sympathetic drive that takes place during experimentally induced stress. They were able to come up with this conclusion after monitoring the test subject’s heart rate, heart rate variability, eye movements and pupil changes, facial expression, galvanic skin response, and saliva composition.
A journalist from USA Today, John Shinal, reported having a good experience with the device. He felt an “uncomfortable twinge of energy” behind his ear while using the device. Nevertheless, he reported sharper mental focus that lasted into the evening. Shinal also said that he felt an elevated level of energy the next morning and that the perceived calming vibe lasted for three days.
Some journalists who tried the Thync device, however, were not impressed by it. One from PC World, in particular, was unsure about the effects. The PC World staff described the sensation of using the device as eye-pinching.