“Yesterday, an article in the Entrepreneurs section of the Guardian purported to reveal a “cloth cap that could help treat depression”. This claim has caused some alarm in the neuroscience and mental health fields, so it’s important to look a little more closely at what the manufacturers are actually claiming.
The piece in question concerns a product from Neuroelectrics: a soft helmet containing electrodes and sensors. According to the company’s website, it can be used to monitor brain activity (electroencephalography, or EEG), or administer light electrical currents to different areas of the brain in order to treat certain neurological and psychiatric conditions (known as transcranial direct current stimulation or tDCS)…
The problem is that when a new development occurs or a new approach is found, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s widely applicable or even effective for everyone. The brain is furiously complicated. There is no magic bullet for brain problems…The article suggests that a variety of neurological problems could be treated by using the cap’s electrodes to channel a low-level current through “problem” areas of the brain. In terms of evidence, a procedure called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) has been shown to be useful in treating depression and other conditions, but TMS involves powerful magnetic fields being used to stimulate specific brain regions, which requires bulky equipment and trained operators. Ergo, it’s hard to see how this, although a proven treatment, could be packaged into a marketable product…
We’re talking about directly altering the brain’s activity with an electrical device here. Such things should not be done lightly by your average person with no relevant expertise. The product mentioned in the article is currently intended for the medicine and research fields, not the average customer. However, the reporting seems to imply that home use is imminent.”
To learn more:
- 10 Ways to Improve Health Based on the Latest Non-Invasive Neurotechnologies
- Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) as depression treatment: much promise, some DIY risks
- 2015 SharpBrains Virtual Summit: Monitoring & Enhancing Brain Health in the Pervasive Neurotechnology Era (November 17–19th, 2015)