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Is DIY Brainhacking Safe? 183

An anonymous reader writes "My colleague at IEEE Spectrum, Eliza Strickland, looked at the home transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) movement. People looking to boost creativity, or cure depression, are attaching electrodes to their heads using either DIT equipment or rigs from vendors like Advocates believe experimenting with the tech is safe, but a neuroscientist worries about removing the tech from lab safeguards..."
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Is DIY Brainhacking Safe?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2014 @10:13PM (#46512815)
    How long until the first Darwin Award is given to someone attempting this?
    • Re:Predictions? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pitchpipe ( 708843 ) on Monday March 17, 2014 @10:59PM (#46513065)
      I'm thinking not long. Although tempting, I don't want to be the guinea pig.

      I learned how to fix and improve computers through tinkering (which I would consider a form of hacking). What usually would happen is I would try to upgrade something, break my computer, and then spend the next four hours trying to fix it. The problem here is that you would be breaking the 'fixer' with no time to google how to roll back the buggy changes.

    • by h5inz ( 1284916 )
      In a research done by Liebetanz on rats, it appeared that it would take tDCS current density of 142.9A/m2 for durations greater than 10 minutes to cause lesions in rats brains. So if we take a tDCS device that has relatively small electrodes, like 3x3cm, we would need at least 128.61mA current for more than 10 minutes to cause any brain damage. Given that even 2mA (most typical) sessions can cause skin burns when the electrodes have been poorly prepared, the currents above 127.8mA would probably feel tortu
    • I read up about this a while ago and I recall that the sort of voltage and current provided by a 9V batter would be sufficient for the technique. I just searched again and found this []. They're using about 14V to 18V and 1.5mA. So it looks pretty safe to me.
    • I already have bets in on the last words being either "Hold my beer and watch this!" or "What could possibly go wrong?".

  • Go ahead (Score:3, Funny)

    by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Monday March 17, 2014 @10:14PM (#46512829) Homepage Journal

    Go ahead. Fry your brain. It's not like you're using it or anything. :(

    • Well, at least the people doing this are not anyway...
    • by Nyder ( 754090 )

      Go ahead. Fry your brain. It's not like you're using it or anything. :(

      I prefer to bake my brain. Apparently baking is better then frying.

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      I don't even have a brain. :P

    • Re:Go ahead (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @07:01AM (#46514595) Homepage Journal

      I think it would be very hard to fry your brain with a 9v battery, even if you couple it to your head with saline soaked sponges. It'd sting, but it's doubtful you'd be able to endure enough to do serious damage. If you want to exercise an abundance of caution, you could put a 2ma or 5ma fast blow fuse in series with the electrode (yes, they make them that small).

      More to the point is *subtle* changes in your brain because you hooked the electrodes up wrong, or overstimulated your brain with long sessions without medical supervision. You could commit a fatal error if you are treating yourself for depression and you connect the device in a way that makes the depression worse.

      One thing that's worth noting is tha most if not all the claimed benefits of tDCS can be achieved through exercise. That's worth considering as an alternative brain hacking scheme.

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Monday March 17, 2014 @10:22PM (#46512873)


    ( [] )

  • I read on the internet that you can use an arc welder for this.
  • Do you want to be a wirehead

    • Those books sucked.

      I'm just saving anyone from looking up that authors name, ordering any of his books on amazon and then proceeding to waste a good 40hrs of their lives before realizing he's a terrible author.

      No offense if you like him. I like hot-dogs, but I'm not about to claim they're some kind of delicacy. Although, hot dogs could likely write better than Niven, but I digress.

      • No offense if you like him. I like hot-dogs, but I'm not about to claim they're some kind of delicacy.

        You make Niven sound like a bad writer, when he is merely mediocre. He never, for example, takes extra time to piss on your mind simply because he can. Now, Piers Anthony, he is a bad writer. Actively bad.

        And hot dogs can be good without being a delicacy. Or truly fit for human consumption.

        • strongly disagree. read lucifer's hammer. it was like 700 pages of introducing this MASSIVE cast of mediocre characters.. most of which are developed and then never heard from again) It's as if they either wanted to write a post-apocalyptic version of Lord of the Rings, but got bored halfway through and decided to wrap it up. Or decided to write the first sci-fi troll novel. I think B is infinitely more likely.

          On an aside, I think i finished it.. i'm not sure -- the ending was that underwhelming..

  • Is it even possible for that to sound the least bit safe to any sane individual?
    • simple, just use the existing, tried 'n true APIs until the new ones are vetted. I hack on my brain all the time. All the sane kids are doing it!

    • i was at the bookstore yesterday and came across the "diy law" section, which sounds equally dubious.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      If these people were sane, they would have some minimum of common sense. They do not have that. Hence it is perfectly safe, as where there is nothing, nothing can get broken...

  • i ben hakin my bren its ben rely gude. i wuz werried fur a bit butt my lernins ben rely takkin off.
  • Of course (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kardos ( 1348077 ) on Monday March 17, 2014 @11:05PM (#46513105)

    I did it last week. Setting up the electrodes was the easy part. The hard part was setting up the electrodes!

  • If something were to go wrong you'd know it..

  • "The most prominent folk theory for the benefits of self-trepanation is offered by Bart Huges, alternatively spelled Bart Hughes and sometimes called "Dr. Bart Hughes", although he is not a doctor but rather a librarian by trade. He was better known for his advocacy of drug use and trepanation and in 1965 he drilled a hole in his own head with a Black and Decker power drill as a publicity stunt. Hughes claims that trepanation increases "brain blood volume" and thereby enhances cerebral metabolism in a manne

  • ... not to overclock or there might be consequences [].

    • 'Way back in my last year of high school, a buddy of mine's older brother dropped by our "common room", where senior students were allowed to relax during spare periods and after school. The guy was well known for his spectacularly comprehensive use of recreational drugs.

      So this guy sees that a chess game is just ending, and challenges the winner (one of our top players, as it happened). He took forever to make his moves, but it became obvious before long that he had the game in the bag. When our class

  • by TheWingThing ( 686802 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @12:25AM (#46513477)

    Better back up your firmware, just in case this makes you infirm.

  • The kind of people who actually would have the means, motivation, and wherewithal to do this probably face at least as much risk and danger in their everyday hobbies and activities. (Serious tinkerers and the like who play with electricity, fire, chemicals, metalworking tools, lasers, plasma cutters, etc. day in and day out.)

    It's when the technology goes 'As Seen On TV' and Joe Six-Pack can buy himself an "Easy-peasy dew-it-yerself brain-zappery kit" that the question of safety truly becomes relevant.

  • Is Lasik At Home Safe? []
    • by Smurf ( 7981 )


      Perhaps the most hilarious thing about that website are the photos of "Dr. Amir Khadim, M.D., Ph.D." with the device... He's wearing glasses!

      (Yes, I know. Not all eyesight defects can be corrected by LASIK. Still it's bad publicity as it suggests lack of confidence in the device you are selling – or its effectiveness.)

  • You don't support our policies?

    Don't worry, I'm sure we can change your mind...

  • Quote from the article: "Lee’s first plan was to use tDCS to learn German, but when he realized that language-learning would still be a huge time commitment, ..."
    How serious can you take someone that thinks learning German is going to take a 10 minutes instead of 10 years because you strap a 9V battery to your head?

    • How serious can you take someone that thinks learning German is going to take a 10 minutes instead of 10 years because you strap a 9V battery to your head?

      Some people claim to have learned to understand various sorts of mathematics rapidly through the use of LSD, why not electricity? We only have vague notions of how memory or indeed thought actually works, we can only measure which parts of the brain are working so far. Big achievement to be sure, but it's hard to say what might be effective. Which is why it's daft to make yourself a guinea pig. Who knows what you will achieve, regardless of your intent?

      • by tgv ( 254536 )

        We might not know much about memory, we do know that language learning requires many, correlated changes in the brain. You need to learn to identify German words, their meanings, classes and features, the rules which operate on these classes and their exceptions, and the combination of meanings, plus all kinds of idiomatic, opaque expressions. You cannot expect a bit of electricity to facilitate making those changes to all these different processes and still be "compatible" with each other much faster. And

  • As long as will also sell me a replacement brain if something goes wrong.

  • Is it safe to electrocute your own brain?

    This is going to be a bit of a puzzler.

  • Invite a few friends, connect all your tDCS to a ethernet hub, then attach to the WAN side of the hub this device [] for best result.
  • by DutchUncle ( 826473 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @09:28AM (#46515191)
    - Woody Allen, "Sleeper"
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Tuesday March 18, 2014 @11:17AM (#46515929)
    I remember depictions of George Nash in the Beautiful Mind movie. He never did great math after that.

The other line moves faster.