Oh what a time to be alive, when more and more science fiction concepts that once seemed hokey are now becoming a reality! Take the transcranial direct current stimulation for example, otherwise known as the tDCS. It’s essentially a high-tech headband, one which is used to trigger the release of the powerful opioids – the human body’s most powerful, euphoria-inducing painkillers that are very similar to opiates such as morphine.
A team of international researchers headed up by the University of Michigan tested this noninvasive device and realized it could be both safe and effective. By applying a very small current to your scalp (2 milliamps), the headband alters the behavior of neurons in the brain, triggering the release of opioids that relieve pain, relax the body and create a general sense of well-being. This is big news for the medical industry and patients, since it means that artificial painkillers may not be necessary for much longer.
To be fair, the tDCS is not entirely new. Back in March of 2012, DARPA announced that it was using this device to assist in the training of military sniper. Essentially, the device was created to alter brain chemistry since the application of current to the brain was shown to make neurons fire faster and improve their neurolasticity. In short, the device could improve reaction time and help users to learn things faster.
However, Alexandre DaSilva and a team of researchers out of the University of Michigan found that the tDCS, when the electrodes are placed above the motor cortex, releases endogenous μ-opioid. In their study, the patient’s threshold for pain improved by 36% and the researchers seem confident that repeated uses of tDCS would also reduce clinical, chronic pain. By boosting the release of natural painkillers, less pharmaceutical opiates are required for managing pain, thus reducing the side effects and the risk of addiction.
Further analysis and long-term trials are needed to confirm these initial results, and I’m thinking a study on the possible effects of tDCS abuse might be needed as well. Sure, patients can avoid getting hooked on Oxycontin, morphine, and codeine with this device, but couldn’t they also get hooked on their headband? Yes, I can see it now. “I don’t need to wear my TransCranBand! I can quite whenever I want!”