Neuroscience research with the aim of understanding the relationship between the brain’s electrical signals and human emotions is beginning to yield practical results. Thync is about to launch a wearable device designed to modify people’s moods by targeting electric currents and ultrasound waves into the right parts of the brain.

Thync: a Brain-Connected Mood-Altering Device

Great headway is now being made with the technologies underpinning electroencephalography – i.e. the analysis of the electrical signals in the synapses, the connections between neurons in the brain – and they are starting to be used for a variety of practical purposes.

The trend has been stimulated by the growing use of low-cost electroencephalogram (EEG) headsets, which use electrodes placed on the forehead to gather electrical signals emitted by the brain and translate them into electronic signals. The best-known start-up in this field is Neurosky, with its Mindwave EEG headset, which allows you to perform such tasks as controlling your car using just the power of thought. The main hurdle to be overcome here however is the ‘education’ phase. In order to control the car you have to think about a cube that is moving, which probably does not come very naturally to most people.

Similarly, startup MindRDR uses EEG headsets to control connected objects such as Google Glass. If you concentrate hard enough, you can take a photo with the glasses and then post it on Instagram.

Meanwhile Thync also measures the brain’s electrical activity but has a more pro-active intent: to modify neuron activity.

The wearable device – expected to take the form of a headset – is based on neuro-signalling, a technique which uses ultrasound waves to communicate with neuron connections, which can alter the user’s mood. The headset will send electrical signals and/or ultrasound waves to those specific areas of the brain corresponding to energy, calm and concentration.  You will be able to control the type and intensity of the waves via an app on your smartphone.

The Thync founders are hoping to popularise the use of transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS), a form of neuro-stimulation which uses constant low current delivered directly to the brain area via small electrodes, as a consumer trend.  This technique has actually been in use for years as a treatment for depression, failing memory, and similar common conditions. The company, which has raised $13 million from investors since it was set up in 2011, expects to take a slice of the burgeoning wearable electronics market, which is forecast to be worth an annual $7 billion by 2015.

By Arthur de Villemandy