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Researchers Testing New Electric Treatment for Migraines

A small dc current through the skull seems to interrupt the headaches and may even prevent them

4 min read

4 October 2007—The brain’s occipital lobe is usually the first to know when a migraine is coming. In desperation it frazzles the vision, smearing it with dark blotches, changing the perception of light intensity, sometimes even inserting things that aren’t there. Only then does the pain come, radiating from the brain and into the rest of the body as fatigue and numbness.

Today, there are no fully satisfying treatments for migraine symptoms. But researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston, are testing a low-tech treatment that could shock migraine patients back to their senses and provide a cheap alternative to drugs. The technology involved—transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)—is simple: stimulate the brain with sudden, controlled bursts of electricity to interrupt and modify the brain circuits responsible for causing migraine pain.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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