I’ve said many times that music is one of the most powerful influences in my life. Music can elevate your mood, transform your outlook, and take you places without you ever leaving your chair. Music is powerful. I listen to music easily 8-10 hours a day. Music keeps me going. So what could make music even better?
How about a blast of dopamine? That’s what the developers from Nervana, a Florida-based tech startup, figured. Imagine all the fun of a post-work dopamine high – without the workout.
How It Works
The Nervana system is pretty ingenious for a couple of reasons. First off, at its heart, is the Nervana Generator: A device that can be paired with any music player, and then attached to the special Nervana headphones. The generator and headphones are designed to emit a low-level electrical impulse to your ear canal, which stimulates the vagus nerve.
The pulses, which are timed to match the beat of your music, cause the vagus nerve to signal the brain to release dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. There is also an “ambient” mode that you can use at concerts and such that give you the same vagus stimulation using the generator’s built in mic to get that dopamine release even with live music.
Vagus nerve stimulation isn’t a new concept. In fact, vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a common treatment for certain types of epilepsy. A typical form of VNS device, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, is “sometimes referred to as a ‘pacemaker for the brain.’ It is placed under the skin on the chest wall and a wire runs from it to the vagus nerve in the neck.” The difference between other forms of vagus nerve stimulation and Nervana is that Nervana is non-invasive.
One amazing aspect of the Nervana system, aside from getting the “runner’s high” without having to run, is the potential to treat conditions like mild depression without introducing pharmaceuticals. The creators of Nervana admit that there are no peer-reviewed studies concerning their products, but at last years Consumer Electronics Show, several people tried them out and could attest that there was definitely something at work with Nervana.
Amanda Gutterman, a writer for Futurism, quoted a colleague who tried Nervana as saying, “I felt the electricity go into my arm, and everything was tingling there, but the best moment for me was afterwards when I finished and stood up. I felt like I reached a personal high point. I couldn’t stop smiling or laughing. I was like, ‘Oh wow’. For about five minutes, my happiness level was a 10 out of 10. Then it got foggier, but I was still unusually happy for about an hour.”
Personally, I think combining the natural mood elevation that music can bring with the power of vagus nerve stimulation is absolutely brilliant. I also think that I have a birthday coming up if anyone is wondering what to get me.