Thync is new impressive technology, that promises to help its users “conquer life” by allowing them to change their mood on demand. Although it sounds like science fiction, the company expects to receive FDA approval by end of 2015. Researchers today try to improve our bodies and extend the limits of our consciousness in many ways. But do you know what’s the reason for this?
Why do scientists try to enhance our minds?
It’s sure, that the undying motivation of homo sapiens spices to know more, to get further, to speed up its own evolution and expand the inherited functions of human mind, plays the role here. However, it’s not just that. The cognitive enhancement research has great potential to assist us in future eradication of many neurological, psychiatric and psychological diseases, such as various types of dementia and depression, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease or in brain stroke rehabilitation. We expect them to come either in the form of powerful diagnostic tools or as next generation of highly effective therapies.
Most of currently active cognitive enhancement research can be identified by methods (or tools), via which researchers try to modify cognitive processes of interest, like emotional reactions (e.g. aggression) or processing of sensory information (e.g. pain). Three main approaches tested for their effectiveness are: electrical (non-invasive) enhancements, pharmacological enhancements and physical (invasive) enhancements. The Thync technology works on principles of cognitive enhancement by electrical stimuli. How strong are these approaches? Is the research on electrical cognitive enhancement the broadest? What about chemical and physical ways of enhancing our brains?
The numbers of publications regarding cognitive enhancement are promising. Search for publications yelled 598 publications about pharmacological cognitive enhancements, 37 about physical and 23 about electrical cognitive enhancements. We can see an evident positive trend in the research focused on chemical brain enhancement. Looking at citations, we can observe an interesting drop in 2012 followed by a peak in citations of electrical enhancement research. This was probably caused by legislation change in USA and thus, research funding uncertainty in late 2011. The number of citations for chemical and physical cognitive enhancement are rising at steady rate.
The top publication on electrical cognitive enhancement with 14 citations is 6 years old and its title is “Cognitive enhancement with central thalamic electrical stimulation.” Looking at the states with the highest number of published papers, we can see that USA is on the first place with 742 publications. This which is four times the number of publication in the UK, on second place (185). The biggest contribution as an author in the research about cognitive enhancement has Philip D. Harvey with 17 publication, he examines the ways of cognitive enhancement through chemicals. The biggest number of studies was published in the journal Neuropharmacology (84) followed by journal Psychopharmacology (45).
From this data, we can see that the research is focused mostly on development of active drugs, enhancing our brains. Thync is working within the area which is explored the least. They can bring new findings to research of the brain enhancement and find a way which is not as harmful as some medications can be. On the other hand, the lack of research describing side effects of long-term electric stimulation of brain and emotional states manipulation is rather alarming.
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