biofuturist

a citizen-scientist speculating on the future

Episode 2 - Brain hacking with Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation

In this episode I talk to Dr. Bent Williams. Brent is an electrical engineer with a masters degree in Technology Management and Ph. D. in Educational Leadership. These come together in his role as  director of the iteach program at Kennesaw State University, which develops advanced educational technologies to aid teaching and learning.

In May of 2015 he was profiled in a Wired magazine article entitled ā€œINSIDE THE STRANGE NEW WORLD OF DIY BRAIN STIMULATION.ā€ 

You see a few years prior, while looking for was to improve learning, he came across news story describing how how Air Force researchers were using transcranial direct current stimultation, TDCS for short. to cut pilot training time. Other groups have suggested that TDCS can be use to enhance creativity or treat depression.

Brent went to his local radio shack and purchased the inexpensive components needed to make a TDCS device himself.

Brent is now a leading Do-It-Yourself brain zapper, a sort of renegade researcher often using himself, friends and family as test subjects.

For those with less engineering savvy there are now commercial TDCS units that can be controlled with iPhone apps and a few doctors prescribing them to patients.

But do any of these really work? Is it safe to put electricity through your brain? And how would one design controlled experiments to asses efficacy. It all sounds a bit crazy but is there sound science to back up the various claims? In this interview Brent will explain TDCS, and some of the caveats of its use. 

This was recorded last November as a video interview, which I intend to finish editing. But I wanted to post some excepts as a podcast.  Consider this an audio essay rather than an unedited interview.