Walk into any health food store and you’re sure to find a variety of teas and remedies that offer to soothe your mind or provide an energy boost. In the future, these offerings may seem almost archaic in the wake of advancing brain machine interface (BMI) technologies. According to engineer, inventor and entrepreneur Isy Goldwasser, anyone can stimulate their mental activity through the use of a BMI, and the potential of cranial stimulation of the mind through this technology is just now being unlocked.
Goldwasser is the CEO and founder of Thync, a company offering a research-backed device that uses low-energy waveforms (or transcranial direct current simulation, tDCS) to safely signal nerves in specific areas of the brain that create effects similar to what today’s herbal remedies claim to provide. While the Thync device provides a compelling reason to buy, Goldwasser said there is still plenty of the brain left to explore (and not everyone is certain that this new technology is safe for human brains, as relayed by Nick Statt in this CNET article).
“We have the large knowledge base of neuroscience (and) we have an atlas of the brain. That atlas is more like a 15th-century map of Europe (where) you have countries, capitals and the trade routes. It is an atlas that summarizes the knowledge we have over the past 80 years or so,” Goldwasser said. “In that atlas, we know there are some pathways that are important. It definitely isn’t Google maps. One day it will be Google maps.”
Goldwasser noted that the primary uses he’s seen for Thync technology come from people who simply want to unwind after a long day, regardless of their profession. In the modern age, people come home from work, spend time with their families or friends, and often get pulled into work emails before bedtime, which starts the mind racing again. A BMI like Thync that can trigger a parasympathetic response can quiet and center the mind after a long day.
Everyday stress isn’t the only reason people want to calm their minds, Goldwasser said. Someone going on a job interview, a blind date, or competing or performing in high-pressure situations are a few other reasons why one might use a BMI to help ease nerves and relax the mind. The difference, Goldwasser added, is psychographic more than demographic and depends more on the user’s personality and daily life.
“You’re either going to be mostly an energy person or mostly a calming person. When you compete, you’ve already trained, and training is repetitive. That may need an energy boost to help,” he said. “But when you’re about to perform or compete, often what you need is calm. You want to get into a slow state. You don’t want to be nervous.”
Looking ahead, Goldwasser thinks that BMI technology is just scratching the surface where neuroscience overlaps with the functions of our daily lives. The potential is on par with vaccines, which are designed to trigger a response in the body, just like the new wave of BMIs, he said.
That BMI potential will only be fulfilled if the technology keeps evolving and can continue helping people, and it’s that level of usefulness and user adoption that will keep investment coming for further development of the technology.
“In the 21st century, the biggest frontier ahead of us is the merger between our biology and technology. I really can’t say how far away that is,” Goldwasser said. “We’ve created a thing to take the first steps in that movement. You have technology that is really triggering your biology. That is the key and, as long as we (keep doing) that, it’s going to lead to great products. I think that’s the exciting part.”