What’s new at Thync
After going somewhat silent for several months, it seemed like Thync may have over-estimated the general population’s willingness to incorporate electrical stimulation into their everyday lives. Their campaign to let you try the device for $1 certainly suggested that they might be having problems with adoption. However, with an exciting new adviser and the release of their new product just around the corner (Spring 2017!) it seems that Thync is alive and well.
This week, I had the opportunity to chat with Thync CEO Isy Goldwasser about their new product, their new adviser Dr. Eric Potterat and the consumer neuromodulation landscape. Here are a few of the interesting things I learned!
Similarities between Thync V1 and Thync Relax
Thync Relax uses the same technology as the Thync V1 (which, by the way, has over 10000 users). It is an electrical stimulation device that modifies the activity of the autonomic nervous system by stimulating specific cranial nerves. This makes it distinct from other electrical stimulation devices like the Foc.us or Halo that are directly modifying brain activity by running a current through the skull (transcranial direct/alternating current stimulation). Like the V1, the Thync Relax will deliver “vibes” researched in house by the science team lead by CSO Dr. Sumon Pal (formerly Chief of Vibes).
Changes in Thync Relax
1. A much more specific use case
The Thync V1 offers (and will continue to offer) a variety of “Energy” and “Calm” vibes. But, as it turns out, the vast majority of Thync V1 users are using the device to help them fall asleep before bed. This observation is in line with the increased popularity of ‘wellness’ technologies like the Muse EEG headset that are specifically designed to help people learn to relax (to be clear, the Muse is not a brain stimulating device). However, unlike wearables that need to be paired with other mindfulness techniques like meditation in order to work, Thync is hoping their new device will provide a drug-free solution for people who just can’t get the hang of those. For a lot of people, a wearable like this could take a lot of the stress out of relaxing.
2. A more immediate reward
According to Goldwasser, the Thync V1 has a bit of an adjustment curve. Between the forehead placement, the different vibes, and the different settings for each vibe, there are a lot of things to try before finding a setting that “works” for you. The Thync Relax is designed to work out of the box. It may still have different vibes, but all of them will be geared towards relaxation, and should require less personalization in order to be effective.
3. An updated form factor
The Thync Relax is worn around the neck. In addition to being a more discrete design, this new form factor also makes it more evident that Thync is not a tDCS device. Placing the V1 on the forehead makes it easy to confuse with other types of brain stimulation, which people are often unwilling to try. One of the central goals of this for form factor update is to help combat the perception that this device is directly stimulating the brain.
Thync’s New Scientific Adviser
Thync’s new scientific advisor Dr. Eric Potterat is a rresearch has focused primarily on stress responses and peak performance in extreme environments. Unsurprisingly, two key aspects of peak performance are relaxation and sleep. Consequently, his expertise is very well suited to advising on Thync’s new relaxation-focused mission.
Let’s chat about Safety & Ethics
Consumer brain stimulation has recently been under the neuroethics microscope, and for good reason. It is a new, largely unregulated technology that is still in its scientific infancy. While Thync is not the same technology as tDCS, the technique that is most commonly mentioned in the context of consumer brain stimulation, it is still a form of electrical neuromodulation. Many of the arguments put forward in the context of tDCS still apply here. For instance, the long term consequences of this type of intervention are still unknown. Ideally, all the device is doing is activating the body’s natural way of regulating stress, which something that we do on a regular basis anyway. However, there is currently no evidence to show that the intervention isn’t causing long term changes (positive or negative!) in how the system works. Admittedly, there is also no evidence to show that it is. That’s really the point that ethicists and many scientists are trying to get across. There are a lot of things we don’t know about these emerging technologies. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them, just that you shouldn’t assume they are 100% risk free.
The second thing to keep in mind is that the word “neurostimulation” sound very medical. Goldwasser was very forthcoming about the fact that Thync is not a medical device company and that the device has not been researched in the context of clinical anxiety, depression, or any other mental health condition. The goal of this device is to help people combat regular everyday stress.
This new device looks really (really) cool, and seems like it will be much easier for people to adopt. I would love to hear from anyone who has tried/tries it, and I look forward to trying it once it is released.