Marolt: Do-it-yourself electric shock therapy
There is now a smartphone app for people who are not afraid to mess with their own minds. I’m not kidding. The technical parts I don’t pretend to understand, but it seemed in reading about it that you simply download the app like you would one of your favorite songs and then the maker of the program sends to you a packet of stick-on electrodes. When they arrive, you paste them to your temples and get busy.
The science is that your phone gets programmed to send electromagnetic waves to the electrodes pasted to your skull which then alter the natural brain activity taking place inside. With a screen-tap or finger-swipe you can alter the voltage coursing through your gray matter to make you calmer or get you more amped up than nature dictates.
The promotors of this cranium-tweaking enhancement to your phone claim that the setup alters your brainwaves in scientifically measurable ways. People who have tested the pocket-size Dr. Frankenstein starter kit say it works, although some complained of headaches and a feeling of nausea after using it. No kidding? The fact that it seems to accomplish what the manufacturers claim it will is what I find most disturbing.
If the app was simply a novelty supported by anecdotal evidence on late-night informercials, I’d say give it a shot. At the very least it could be a fun ice-breaker at otherwise awkward family gatherings with third cousins you’ve never met, but who are tenacious Internet surfers dying to see Aspen. This app sounds altogether more serious than that, though.
For crying out loud; this is shooting electricity through your brain without supervision because you are bored at a bus stop. It’s a shock in the frontal lobe to help you deal with bumper-to-bumper traffic. It’s people performing chemistry experiments on themselves whose first thought when you mention AC or DC is “a great rock band I kind of remember seeing in the early ’80s … or was that the Grateful Dead?”
I’ll admit that I’m a different kind of skeptic about this kind of stuff. I’m not reluctant to use herbs and other homeopathic remedies because I think they are nonsense and do nothing. I pretty much steer clear of them because I am confident that they actually do all kinds of things that have been summarized into something short and sweet that someone thinks I want to hear. What I’m leery about are people telling me exactly what these products will do who don’t appear to have any way of knowing. I get really scared when I’m told there is one all-natural cure for everything from leprosy to toenail fungus. This is because I know the only way to cure everything a human being might suffer from is to kill them!
Remember androstenedione? They called in “andro” and it was the all-natural, ultra-safe fitness supplement at the turn of this century. It was effective; men grew muscles like superheroes on it. It also shrunk their balls and made them sprout breasts. Turns out it wasn’t exactly a steroid, but it caused the body to produce natural steroids in grossly unnatural quantities and is now banned in all sanctioned sports.
One winter, years ago, I experimented with the echinacea herb to ward off colds and the flu. It’s supposed to boost your immune system. I didn’t have so much as a sniffle through April, but in May I contracted a bacterial infection in my spine that almost killed me. They never figured out what compromised my immune system to allow this to occur. I have my suspicions.
I guess my bottom line is that when it comes to altering electric impulses in your brain or changing the chemistry in your body, if the method employed is powerful enough to do any good, it has the potential to do damage, too. I don’t care if it sprouts from the dirt or is picked from bushes, in most cases I’d say that’s more worrisome than a compound that is painstakingly created, measured, tested and regulated in a laboratory.
You have to admit it is funny, in a strange kind of way, that some people worry about the cancer-causing electrical waves a cellphone might be transmitting through their brains when the device is used to make phone calls while others are downloading apps and pasting electrodes to their noggins on the possibility this might help them to relax. Most likely, one of them is wrong.
Roger Marolt thinks its better to find the causes of stress and deal with them than it is to ignore them and numb their effects. email@example.com
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