We are starting to see a proliferation of commercial neuro-tech devices. Mostly these tools and technologies are designed to measure and record the electrical activity of the brain through electroencephalography (EEG). This work has powered gaming devices (Focus Pocus), toys (Mindball), consumer platforms (Emotiv), and even DIY formats (OpenBCI).
Now a new type of device has become available, electronic stimulation, that not only reads brain activity but also attempts to influence it. As such, scientific communities are starting to debate the cognition-enhancing effects of non-invasive brain stimulation devices such as transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).
The range of commercially available systems (already available on the market) promise a number of health benefits: improved fitness outcomes, better quality of sleep and increased mindfulness. Other devices, targeted towards gamers, promise to temporarily improve coordination and gaming skills.
Despite optimistic developments in brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies the exact effectiveness of these devices is being disputed. Bioethicists and tDCS researchers are starting to raise important questions as to whether there are serious and adverse effects of non-regulated tDCS. This is combined with an increasing concern over whether these devices might discredit the work of scientists working with brain stimulation for therapeutic purposes. As such interesting ethical and legal questions are being asked of the sorts of tools that promise to modulate and manage our cognitive and affective states, and well-being.
What are we still missing in terms of data on how these devices work? Will tighter regulation of device-maker’s marketing and manufacturing standards only hinder development and innovation? How do we ensure cognitive liberty and ensure an open (and proactionary) approach to the development of DIY devices? How to we effectively educate (and in some cases protect) the public?
This panel (curated in partnership with NERRI) brings together representatives from the three spheres where brain stimulation operates – clinical research, consumer products and DIY brain-hacking. It is a unique opportunity to enter into a much-needed dialogue around the long-term physiological and social effects of cognitive enhancements.
Dr. Dr Nick Davis, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University (@n_j_davis)
Luke Robert Mason, Director of Virtual Futures (Moderator) (@LukeRobertMason)
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- Tuesday, 2 February 2016 from 18:30 to 21:00 (GMT)
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