Probably not good news markets in everything

by on June 22, 2013 at 4:30 am in Education, Games, Religion, Web/Tech | Permalink

For US$249 a company in the United States is promising to send curious and competitive players of computer games an unusual headset. The device, the company claims, will convert electronic gamers into electronic-gamers. At the touch of a button, the headset will send a surge of electricity through their prefrontal cortex. It promises to increase brain plasticity and make synapses fire faster, to help gamers repel more space invaders and raid more tombs. And, according to the publicity shots on the website, it comes in a choice of red or black.

The company is accepting orders, but says that it will not ship its first headsets to customers until next month. Some are unwilling to wait. Videos on the Internet already show people who have cobbled together their own version with a 9-volt battery and some electrical wire. If you are not fussy about the colour scheme, other online firms already promise to supply the components and instructions you need to make your own. Or you could rummage around in the garage.

Here is more, with further interesting points, via Michelle Dawson.

1 meicate June 22, 2013 at 5:49 am

Mild electric currents can change and possibly enhance brain function.

Maybe these guys are charlatans, but the technology is on the way.

2 Dan Weber June 24, 2013 at 12:20 pm

It definitely has “an effect.”

Who knows if this effect is positive, or negative. I would be amazed if they could actually measure any difference.

3 Claude Emer June 22, 2013 at 6:01 am
4 Rahul June 22, 2013 at 6:12 am

Back to ECT?

5 Jan June 22, 2013 at 7:34 am

A lot of experts actually think ECT is pretty safe–I’m sure there are limits. FDA is now in the process of reclassifying devices for it.

6 Mark Thorson June 22, 2013 at 10:02 am

The currents involved are thousands of times lower than those used for ECT. They are much too low to provoke a convulsion.

I recommend the comments attached to the Nature article. They sum up what’s wrong with the article pretty well.

7 Rahul June 22, 2013 at 10:06 am

The trick will lie in finding that sweet spot between ineffective and dangerous (as with most techniques, I guess)

8 Mark Thorson June 22, 2013 at 10:20 am

They are two totally different phenomena. Low-level electrical or magnetic stimulation may alter the function of sensitive dynamic states in the brain, though any reports to that effect need to be carefully examined for blinding, selection bias, etc.

Convulsive therapy uses very high currents to induce a convulsion. High currents that fail to induce a convulsion are ineffective for obtaining the effects of a convulsion. There is no sweet spot short of a convulsion that obtains the beneficial effects of ECT.

9 anon June 22, 2013 at 10:22 am

The trick will lie in finding that sweet spot

My take is that the sellers have already found the trick, the lie, and the sweet spot.

10 dan1111 June 22, 2013 at 6:37 am

Just when I thought “markets in everything” could no longer be shocking.

11 Marie June 22, 2013 at 9:30 am


12 Jay June 22, 2013 at 7:32 am

Proggers unite. We need Big Government to protect us from ourselves.

13 mw June 22, 2013 at 8:57 am

To protect us from companies making false health claims that most people are not equipped to evaluate (demonstrated in above comments) and that haven’t been tested by other equally unimportant agencies like the FDA. That’s some real controversial pinko commie sh**.

14 Turkey Vulture June 22, 2013 at 9:10 am

Not sure the FDA will be able to do much about medical devices that can be assembled at home from a 9V battery and wire.

15 Rahul June 22, 2013 at 10:11 am

FDA steps in when you try and sell it.

16 Mark Thorson June 22, 2013 at 10:23 am

They also need a rash of complaints or reports of injuries or deaths. They already have their hands full investigating cases where they do have complaints or reports of adverse effects.

17 Paolo_ June 22, 2013 at 9:11 am

tDCS has been subject t considerable scientific study. PubMed alone lists some 850 articles from peer-reviewed journals, most of which show it to be safe and helpful in a huge range of conditions, and several suggest strongly that it can enhance cognition in healthy people. Given this is it’s astonishing that a piece published under the Nature banner shrieks, like some sensational tabloid kneejerk , about sending “a surge of electricity” through your brain (the current used in tDCS is <2mAmps – barely enough to light a led) and asserts “nobody knows” whether it would work. Then proceeds to talk only of the risks, perils and (implied) stupidity of tDCS DIY experimentation and the need for control.. Those who have educated themselves about tDCS believe it can improve their lives, and it is entirely reasonable for them to want it. Yet the only non experimental treatment currently available to them is offered by a very few medical practitioners , most of whom are offering it at shamefully exploitative cost. No wonder people are cobbling wires together in their back rooms. I have followed the development of tDCS very closely since it was revived more than ten years ago. It has been clear for at least two years that the production of a safe, foolproof, affordable device is both desirable for itself, and also the best way to guard against DIY mishaps. Nature should be calling for this, not control, prohibition, and irrational fear. It’s that kind of thinking that kicked off the “war on drugs” wasn’t it?

18 Curt F. June 22, 2013 at 11:00 am

Hi “Paolo”, I liked your comment better when it was written by “rita Carter” on the Nature web site. Which one are you? Why so duplicative/deceptive??

19 duped June 22, 2013 at 11:14 am

how do you even know same person posted the two? and so what?

20 Curt F. June 22, 2013 at 12:47 pm

The comments are 100% identical, yet posted under different names. One person wrote it, and either someone else or the same person posted it here. Either way, it is spam and not worthy of consideration by the readers here. I figured I would point that out.

21 duped June 22, 2013 at 1:07 pm

thanks, now please go through and mark all other comments not worthy of consideration on this blog … the comment readers here are a malleable bunch. I try to judge a comment more by its content than by the name of the supposed poster.

22 CD June 22, 2013 at 4:08 pm


23 CD June 22, 2013 at 4:09 pm

… that was, to be clear, an endorsement of Curt F., not “duped.”

24 duped June 22, 2013 at 5:18 pm

to be clear. I am not defending Paolo_’s post. I just find personal take downs … especially in a forum where no one enters by their credentials … to be uninformative. that’s all.

25 Paolo_ June 22, 2013 at 7:05 pm

hello curt F. who are you? Do you have anything to say? If so just go ahead.

26 Mark Thorson June 22, 2013 at 9:56 am

For anyone squeemish about sending an electric current throught the brain, a similar technology uses magnetic fields.

It’s derivative from earlier research.

27 Mark Thorson June 22, 2013 at 11:12 am

Here’s an article about a study that found tDCS makes other people seem more attractive.

Combine that with Google Glass, and you might really have something. But of course that would raise the question of who controls it. Google’s algorithms? The owner of the bar you walked into? The NSA?

28 DK June 22, 2013 at 11:59 am

the headset will send a surge of electricity through their prefrontal cortex. It promises to increase brain plasticity and make synapses fire faster

LMAO. Basic scientific literacy, anyone?

29 Dan June 22, 2013 at 12:23 pm

to help gamers repel more space invaders and raid more tombs

Haha, it appears Nature really knows its pacmans!

30 Boonton June 23, 2013 at 11:06 am

Some are unwilling to wait. Videos on the Internet already show people who have cobbled together their own version with a 9-volt battery and some electrical wire.

This demonstrates why we need hte FDA.

On the other hand, it may also demonstrate how the FDA lowers our economic productivity by denying funeral homes and hospitals possible future customers.

31 Mark Thorson June 23, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Oh, nonsense. You can’t hurt yourself with a 9V battery and skin electrodes placed on the head. They’d have to be placed near the heart and modulated with a rhythm similar to the cardiac rhythm. Even then, it would be unlikely to provoke fibrillation. Far less likely than a Taser.

32 Joshua Lyle July 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm

“This demonstrates why we need hte FDA.”

I don’t see how that follows. Do you mean that the FDA should be in the business of regulating our access to batteries and wire?

The more common-sense inference is that this is why we can’t afford to have an FDA; an unregulated market in personal medical devices may be less safe than a regulated one (granted strictly for the sake of argument) and yet still much safer than a black and gray market in home remedy versions.

33 Techreseller June 24, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Oh there is an effect all right. Two actually. One, adds more proof the adage that there is a sucker born every minute. Two, that a fool and his money are soon parted.

Yep, I think that covers the “effects” from the device.

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