Nick was interviewed for an edition of the Out of the Ordinary radio programme about people zapping their brains with DIY electrical devices, lasers and electromagnets.
Nick and his colleagues and students use technology called tDCS (transcranial direct current stimulation) to alter signals in the brain. They do this to understand how the brain processes information in different tasks, and in some cases have been able to improve brain function using tDCS. tDCS, which is sometimes called "non-invasive brain stimulation, is a fairly cheap technology, as it really just consists of a battery and a little circuit to control the current.
This episode of the series is about people who use tDCS devices that they build themselves. People are doing this with relatively little idea of the safety issues involved, and so may be putting themselves at risk of an overdose. In addition, it is not really clear what the wider ethical issues are in using brain stimulation. For example, if someone uses tDCS to help me learn some facts for an exam, is that cheating?
Nick has published papers about the safety and ethics of brain stimulation, such as an argument that tDCS is not really "non-invasive", and a paper arguing that the poorly-understood safety issues mean we should be very cautious in using tDCS with people under 18, which includes many people who are building their own devices.
Listen to the 'Brain Hacking' episode here.
- Monday 2 February 2015 12.13 GMT
- Tuesday 3 February 2015 09.47 GMT
- Simon Dymond