On DIY neuroscience and "brain zapping"

Some days ago I saw this:

To which I replied with:

And today I saw this:

To which I replied similarly.

Neurobollocks had a post some months ago on tDCS and gaming. I'll repeat what NB and all neuroscientists will tell you:

DON'T DO DIY BRAIN STIMULATION. IT IS DUMB AND YOU CAN HURT YOURSELF.

Firstly, a statement from a lot of amazing cognitive neuroscientists -- many who are specifically studying video games and cognition or verifying whether these "brain games" actually increase cognitive ability -- came out to take a stance against any company or product stating it can help improve or increase abilities of your brain. That should really be all you need to know before you waste your money on anything that can "increase" your brain activity.

But many don't believe us scientists who do this research, for some reason. And they pick and choose what to believe. So some may read that statement and say Well, of course video game brain training wouldn't work! But hey, maybe sending electrical stimulation to my head will?

Who knows? It's not verified. This study suggests their tDCS findings to be preliminary, and more research is needed. Another tDCS study says the effects of tDCS on cognitive tasks may be more complex than previously thought -- suggesting again that more research is needed. And this study states that the effects of tDCS are as good as just playing a video game in your spare time for the last 5 years. You can look up any tDCS and video game study you wish for here. But don't be misled by the fact that these researchers found positive results using tDCS in their experiments -- almost all say more research is needed because there were other results that they did not expect.

Think about it this way: your computer's fan has stopped working. You take it to someone who fixes computers and they get the fan working -- great! -- but you now notice your computer is a little more slow than before. Strange. Logic says to bring it back to your computer fixer person to see why this is the case. But some people might think Well whatever, I got the results I want. WRONG. YOUR COMPUTER WAS GOING THROUGH A POWER FAILURE AND EVISCERATES YOUR PRECIOUS HARD DRIVE. So much for ignoring the whole "other results we found need more research" bit, am I right?

We hear about cool research all the time. Algae fuel, for instance, was seemingly about to hit the scene after this Prius traveled across America using this engineered plant energy. That was in 2009. Last year, Exxon says we are 25 years out from algae fuel from even considering it as a gas alternative.  The reason? MORE RESEARCH IS NEEDED.

And that's really the bottom line. Please, let the professionals do the work they are paid to do. Once they figure out how to modulate your brain safely and effectively, the public will be the first to benefit. But until then, don't try "sciencing" yourself by attaching sponges to your head and then connecting it to a battery. Chances are you're doing it wrong and can really burn yourself. Or worse.

2 thoughts on “On DIY neuroscience and "brain zapping"”

    1. Nick Wan says:

      My thoughts are the same as in my article. There is no published research from this company on tDCS http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=%22foc.us%22+tdcs&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C45

      Much more telling: there is no 3rd party research done using this tDCS model.

      On the other hand, the tDCS company Soterix Medical has had over twenty peer-reviewed articles using their system in the last year by unaffiliated labs.

      Until they can verify their claims, it's no different than someone wanting increased taste buds so they rub a battery against their tongue.

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