Europe's first approved medical brain stimulator for treating depression is now available for everyone to use at home. The device uses a small amount of electricity to control the activity in front of the brain, which is used with the virtual therapeutic device on your phone.
Reduction of brain tissue using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been shown to improve depressive symptoms in a number of trials. Now, researchers at Flow Neuroscience have incorporated this non-invasive technology into an easy-to-wear headset, available for purchase for £ 399.
This device uses a small amount of electricity to control activity in front of the brain.
tDCS uses weak currents to alter the electrical potential of nerve cells, making them more or less excitable. Flow headphones, which control this stimulation in the area of the brain just behind the forehead called the prefrontal cortex, are involved in personality, decision making, and emotional regulation. People with depression often have lower left side activity and higher right side activity. Headphones are used to rebalance this activity.
People wear headphones for 30 minutes, 18 times in six weeks. They also have access to virtual therapy with an app that guides them to eat better, sleep better, exercise and meditate more. Users can upgrade their treatment twice a week as needed.
Previous studies on tDCS and depression have shown mixed results. However, two recent trials have shown that tDCS has a similar effect to antidepressants in reducing depressive symptoms, but with fewer side effects.
Side effects of antidepressants include anxiety, fatigue, weight gain and nausea, while the most common effects of tDCS are temporary redness beneath the electrodes and mild headache.
Stephen Buckley, at the mental health charity charity Mind, said anything that contributes to effective treatments for mental health issues is welcome.
Daniel Mansson, clinical psychologist and CEO of Flow, said there are several lines of information that are given to patients to respond. Although the device is aimed at people with a depressive diagnosis, he admits there is no way to reinforce this. But he said that the regulatory authority had taken this into account. This is a very safe technology, he said. This device is being launched in several clinics across the UK today and is available for purchase online.