British neuroscientists are working on miniaturizing devices that would be able to deliver high tesla fields to produce magnetic stimulation within the brain, a potential therapy for migraines, and other neurological or psychiatric disorders.
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These new brain stimulators, called DC machines, introduce very weak electrical currents. But like TMS, DC also has the same effect of changing the “excitability” of brain cells, either damping down their reactivity or boosting it, which can change the way that the brain responds.
Although the prototype electrical stimulator costs around £5000, the hope is that the costs will fall as more are used. The device is much easier to use than TMS since it does not have to be precisely positioned over the correct brain region, which is currently done with a brain scanner.
The electrical version simply requires two electrodes, colour coded pink and yellow, to be put on head. Then a current passes between them, through the brain.
The method promises to have long lasting results for up to 90 minutes.
“This is a huge advantage of DC because TMS effects only last for a few minutes,” says Prof Walsh, who expects the results of his trial next year.