"If we knew the actual code that neurons used to store information, we could potentially download information into people's brains."
This is the second part of the interview I did with Dr. Michael Weisand, a pioneer in the field of transcranial direct-current stimulation (TDCS). For more information on TDCS, check out the first part of the interview here. Essentially TDCS is a technology where you pass electricity through the brain to stimulate a particular region. They've managed to double the rate of learning in certain tasks.
In this part of the interview we spoke about the future potential uses of this technology.
Fifty years down the line, what are the potential uses of this technology?
Let's make this as sci-fi as possible. In theory, if we knew the actual code that neurons used to store information, we could potentially download information into people's brains.
Now let's consider a more realistic scenario. Let's say you were happier on day x than you were on day y. You might visit a boutique and have them design an intervention, sit down for half an hour, chit chat through your stimulation session, and head home.
It might be the case that you have one of these gizmos at home, and then you can design your own brain stimulation. But what's lacking is knowing the right pattern that you can put in so you can have the desired effect.
That's where I see things improving the most. We will eventually have the ability to design very good paradigms.
I suppose it might be possible to re-create a 'mystical' experience if you have the right brain pattern.
Yes. There was just a paper on that the other day where you can alter your belief in super natural beings using TDCS.
Actually there was a paper saying that you can potentially influence the way people are going to vote come November.
"We have people that are working real hard on making a gizmo that can seriously help people instead of simply designing an interesting experience."
There are interesting studies that look at MDMA's impact on PTSD. Apparently there are some very promising results. From what I understand, MDMA allows you to access a memory, but instead of having the anxious feelings surrounding that memory, you have feelings of love and joy. So it's easier to talk through it with a therapist.
So that might be a possibility with TDCS because you can influence your mood and then associate that mood with the memory.
Do you see any potential uses that have high potential in the domain of therapy?
It could used as an aid to therapy like MDMA. MDMA was actually designed as a therapeutic aid. It was made by Bauer Aspirin in Germany years ago.
As of now, I don't see a large number of people that understand that you have to know the brain before you can design a therapeutic intervention.
There are companies out there right now like Thync and Halo doing that, but they're more concerned about designing an experience rather than taking a serious swing at the ball in terms of therapeutics. I spoke a lot about this with the former co-founder of Thync, Jaimie Tyler. He would like to move towards therapeutics. Our company Rio Grande Neurosciences would also like to take serious swing at it.
We have people that are working real hard on making a gizmo that can seriously help people instead of simply designing an interesting experience.