29 May '15, 11am

The Vagus Nerve: A Back Door for Brain Hacking

ElectroCore’s researchers knew that directing the signal through the good fibers instead of the bad ones is just a matter of hitting a sweet spot of signal strength. Their real innovation was sending that signal painlessly through the skin, explains vice president of research Bruce J. Simon. The key, he says, is to understand that the skin acts the way a capacitor in a filter circuit does: It blocks direct current and low frequencies, but a high enough frequency signal will pass through it. But brain responses to VNS are frequency dependent. ElectroCore’s brain- hacking code needs 25 one- millisecond pulses per second—but this low a frequency would trigger pain receptors while passing through the skin. So the stimulator forms each of the 25 pulses from a burst of 5,000 hertz. The high- frequency signals slip painlessly past the skin, losing only about half their strength a...

Full article: http://spectrum.ieee.org/biomedical/devices/the-vagus-ner...

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