40 winks condensed
May 7, 2007 10:33 AM   Subscribe

A good night's sleep with the flip of a switch? A brain zapper to fight sleep deprivation using TMS. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye (47 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Hey! I just posted a link too! (mediocre minds think alike;)
posted by vronsky at 10:38 AM on May 7, 2007


No, really, good links. The various effects of electromagnetism on humans are pretty poorly understood.
posted by attackthetaxi at 10:46 AM on May 7, 2007

TMS is a very exciting field, particularly in that it implies you acn change thoughts and behavior simply by altering the ambient EM field environment around the head.

One thing I haven't been able to read about is how powerful the magnetic field has to be.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:47 AM on May 7, 2007

I am sure that the people regularly using this machine will experience some horrible side effects.
posted by Mr_Zero at 10:50 AM on May 7, 2007

I would encourage anyone with an interest in sleep and/or neuroscience to read Tononi and Cirelli's paper on sleep function and synaptic homeostasis [PDF]. It's a really beautiful theory, and I think it has a very good chance of being proven right.
posted by teleskiving at 10:53 AM on May 7, 2007

If it will let soldiers work 22 out of every 24 hours, I'm sure the Pentagon will be all over this with funding soon enough. And then we will be only a hop, skip and a jump from the EZRest 5000 on the shelves at Wal-Mart and the 100 hour work week.
posted by MasonDixon at 10:57 AM on May 7, 2007

Very interesting.

I do worry about the potential for abuse

"What do you mean you can't pull an all-nighter? We have the zapper downstairs . . . "

but this is a very interesting area of research.

Cool post!
posted by jason's_planet at 10:58 AM on May 7, 2007

I could use a two hour power nap right now, and I don't think I would need anything artificial to induce it, just close my eyes............................................
posted by caddis at 10:58 AM on May 7, 2007

vonsky, another side by side posting, we got it goin' on. :)
posted by nickyskye at 11:03 AM on May 7, 2007

I prefer post-coital coma, thanks.
posted by LordSludge at 11:04 AM on May 7, 2007

Theoretically, it could also lead to a magnetically stimulated "power nap," which might confer the benefit of eight hours sleep in just a few hours.

A few hours for a power nap? I've been selling myself short with the three minutes I get in at the end of lunch. And any nap over 20 minutes ruins me - I become zombified for the rest of the day.
posted by effwerd at 11:05 AM on May 7, 2007

What do you mean you can't pull an all-nighter? We have the zapper downstairs . . .

That is great boss man, but I really don't like using the zapper. After a couple of days, it makes me think there is a transmitter in my upper left bicuspid.
posted by Mr_Zero at 11:06 AM on May 7, 2007

My brother had some sleep tests done to him in a reputable, big name hospital in Chicago. He had some insomnia, and wanted to check it out.

He said the whole setup is ridiculous and artificial. They take a person who's having trouble sleeping as it is, put him in an unfamiliar room on an uncomfortable bed, attach things to his head, then ask him to sleep. At one point, as he was trying to doze off, one of the doctors monitoring him thought he heard my brother say something, and blurted "IS EVERYTHING OK IN THERE?" really loudly over the intercom, causing my brother to nearly jump off the bed.

Of course, this is just one experience/opinion, but I always wonder about the set and setting for things like this.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 11:12 AM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm not stalking you nickyskye, swear! (Of course if you would like me to, something could be arranged - I'm free on thursdays;)
posted by vronsky at 11:20 AM on May 7, 2007

You are, you naughty rascal.

*thumbs through appointment book* Busy being stalked weekends and the first half of the week but Thursdays are free. Okay :)
posted by nickyskye at 11:35 AM on May 7, 2007

What MasonDixon said. Except, with cell phones and laptops, make that a 150 hour work week.
posted by Quietgal at 11:40 AM on May 7, 2007

Pastabagel, my impression is it has to be pretty strong. It's not just changing the field, it's creating a pulse that induces some current in your head. Static magnetic fields seem to have pretty much no effect on people even if they're crazy-strong.

TMS sounds like an interesting field and I keep having to remind myself that cobbling up a basement TMS setup and experimenting on myself probably isn't a good idea.
posted by hattifattener at 12:04 PM on May 7, 2007

jeff-o-matic, your post reminds me of the sleep clinic here that's right on the interstate and has a coke machine in the lobby. Yeah, let's all have some caffeine and lie down by the highway and try to figure out why we can't sleep!
posted by found dog one eye at 12:19 PM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

TMS is indeed very exciting, or at least the stories I've heard over beer from cognitive psychologists. Experiments like the one in which they gag your mouth (so that you won't bite your tongue) and tie you into a chair (so that you won't hurt yourself falling off) and then jolt something like 3 Teslas for a duration of one millisecond through your skull in a specific spot, causing something funny to happen when the neurons in that spot in the brain react to the field and start firing. One of the few experiments they do in which I'm not willing to volunteer, but apparently rather good treatment for severe depression, for example.
posted by ikalliom at 12:20 PM on May 7, 2007

Pastabagel, my impression is it has to be pretty strong. It's not just changing the field, it's creating a pulse that induces some current in your head. Static magnetic fields seem to have pretty much no effect on people even if they're crazy-strong.

I'm pretty sure the field does have to be fairly powerful (as in, a few Teslas), but static magnetic fields won't induce a current. By definition, you need a changing magnetic current for that. For comparison, a standard MRI is 1.5T, and that will ruin any magnets currently in your body (so, no cochlear implants, remove your jewelry, etc). Newer implants are safe for .3T MRIs, but those aren't very common. So 3T is pretty strong, yeah.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 12:31 PM on May 7, 2007

Hmm - why does this seem like something I've read about in a number of science fiction novels. Russian sleep sets, anyone?
posted by cptnrandy at 12:37 PM on May 7, 2007

Man, what's with the hatin' on polysom testing?

(Ex-polysom technologist here...)
posted by Samizdata at 12:44 PM on May 7, 2007

I need this. But it scares the crap out of me.
posted by tkchrist at 12:44 PM on May 7, 2007

Another weapon in my longstanding war against Morpheus. I'll knock you off your ebony bed yet, my ancient nemesis!
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:50 PM on May 7, 2007

Wake me up when they induce slow waves in people who *aren't already asleep*
posted by Maias at 12:56 PM on May 7, 2007

He said the whole setup is ridiculous and artificial. They take a person who's having trouble sleeping as it is, put him in an unfamiliar room on an uncomfortable bed, attach things to his head, then ask him to sleep.

Welcome to my world. NYU Sleep Center here. Except add meat locker levels of air conditioning and a twin size bed. Here's your apnea diagnosis. "But I didn't sleep!". Doesn't matter.
posted by spicynuts at 1:40 PM on May 7, 2007

As someone with a bad relationship with sleep I would totally fucking do this. Like, hook me up. Dude.

Though, it did remind me of this: * (re-found by google-ing: "Canadian Neuroscientist +God" snort.)

And then, that whole "halcyon" bit.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:47 PM on May 7, 2007

TMS is really not that well-understood. I expect that after several years there will be lots of interesting news. Personally, as a student of neuroscience, I will not expose myself to it.
posted by fake at 2:49 PM on May 7, 2007

From Bklyn, dang "Canadian neuroscientist says religious experiences can be replicated using magnetic fields", that's quite interesting. Not surprising that there's a way to tap into that part of the brain, whatever it is, that experiences Ultimate Union with The Universe and it makes sense that magnetic waves would be how.

By any chance do any of the neurology brainiacs in this thread know the scientific name for the so-called "God spot" in the brain? Is it the caudate? Or is the caudate nucleus more the neurological seat of feeling 'regular' love in general?

fake, Since magnetic resonance imaging is typical in visualising the brain, may I ask why you would not undergo TMS? Is the frequency of magnetic waves used in an MRI less dangerous, in your estimation, than TMS? Or is an MRI as dangerous to the brain as TMS?

Apart from commonsensical not wanting to irradiate the brain with any out of the ordinary waves, just curious why TMS is something that wouldn't seem safe to you.
posted by nickyskye at 4:20 PM on May 7, 2007

I am reminded of a John D. MacDonald novel, one of the Travis McGee series, in which they keep someone asleep with a Swiss device that sends a trickle current through just the right spot in your brain. I had always wondered if it were based on something real or not.
posted by adipocere at 4:57 PM on May 7, 2007

TMS, sadly, cannot reach the pleasurable areas in the brain like the nucleus accumbens and tegmentum (which are definitely important in pleasure associated with love and sex) because from what I have been told by neuroscientists (I am a science journalist), the focus of the magnet cannot target regions that far in.

As far as I know (and maybe technology has improved since I last looked), TMS can only really affect cortical regions, so all you drug addicts looking for a way to hit the accumbens without copping opioids or cocaine will have to wait.

I think the "god spot" is somewhere in the temporal lobe, but I'm sure someone else can fill in.
posted by Maias at 6:05 PM on May 7, 2007

Interesting stuff. Thanks, nickyskye!
posted by homunculus at 6:15 PM on May 7, 2007

TMS, sadly, cannot reach the pleasurable areas in the brain like the nucleus accumbens and tegmentum (which are definitely important in pleasure associated with love and sex)

If it ever can, it will be the last thing humanity discovers.
posted by atrazine at 6:18 PM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Maias,Thanks for the info about the god spot and the temporal lobe.

(By the way, am an admirer of your writing on the web.)

...Apparently, people who suffer with temporal lobe epilepsy are "more susceptible to having religious experiences including visions of supernatural beings and near death experiences."

In the third link above, the "TMS" one, the author says, "Repetitive TMS has been shown to effect motor output and may be useful in treating certain disorders such as depression, epilepsy and Parkinson's disease, but little is known about how repetitive TMS affects cortical circuits."

Depression seems to be such a complex thing, I wonder what part/aspect of the brain TMS is impacting?
posted by nickyskye at 6:39 PM on May 7, 2007

Please let this "sleep switch" be workable, available and cheap. It doesn't sound nearly as scary as the Risperdal they gave me.
posted by davy at 9:12 PM on May 7, 2007

I don't like sleep, and sleep doesn't like me. I usually wake up feeling worse than I did when I went to bed. I "feel" better after only maybe 3-4 hours sleep, but I function worse. I function better with 6-8 hours sleep but I feel worse.

Like right now is 11:45 or so my time, and I'll go to bed about 12:30. When I go to sleep is anytime from 12:31 to 3am, depending on factors I've not been able to isolate or identify in the last 20 years. Going to sleep is something I approach with trepidation and dread 365 nights a year. Sometimes, I go out like someone hit me with a brick within literally minutes. Other times it takes hours.

I'll get up about 7am, and I know I'll feel worse than I do right now. That's depressing, and certainly doesn't encourage sleep.

I don't like sleep, and sleep doesn't like me. Anything that could make us on speaking terms would be a godsend.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:46 PM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

wow Ynoxas, you have my sincere sympathy. That has to be hard. Perhaps this TMS thing might be useful to you? Or maybe you could contact this guy in your state, for neurofeedback info that might help you?
posted by nickyskye at 10:22 PM on May 7, 2007

nickyskye, NMR uses mostly-static fields, which as I alluded, don't seem to have a whole lot of effect on living things. (See also: live levitating frog in 16T field. I take every opportunity to link to that frog.) If there's any biological consequence to making all the hydrogen nuclei in your body line up and wobble like drunken Rockettes, nobody's found it yet.

TMS seems to be mostly a way to induce currents in the brain without drilling holes and inserting wires. At least, that's my non-medical take on the TMS stuff I've read.

Maias: Hm. A pity. What if I were to build a TMS coil in my sinuses? And if I did that would it really be "transcranial" any more?
posted by hattifattener at 12:44 AM on May 8, 2007

nickyskye: I may check into it. Or something. Last night after I left MeFi was one of those 3am nights.

However, the wife took pity on me and "boosted my morale" this morning, so I'm feeling okay right now.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:01 AM on May 8, 2007

hattifattener , that frog floating in the magnetic field is amazing.

Ynoxas, lol, that boosting of the morale thing can, er, come in handy. Happy for both of you, well, I hope for her too.
posted by nickyskye at 7:23 AM on May 8, 2007

As one whom loves deep, regenerative sleep [but almost never gets it naturally or on a regular schedule] this is very exciting to me. I haven't slept properly in close to 14 years, and i'm getting a little sick of the nightmares that seem to be caused by my current benadryl+melatonin+calcium supplement cocktail.

I've tried all kinds of mind-machines (on the cheap - try this one) to both stimulate relaxed states and more aware states with some success. After the more beneficial meditation sessions there is a feeling akin to what you might think releasing a bunch of electricity through your head or something, so the idea that magnetic realignment (or degaussing) old synapses seems very likely to be part of the core of sleep's necessity.

Any chance we can get some schematics of the TMS machines used, voltages, etc.?
posted by phylum sinter at 7:52 AM on May 8, 2007

may I ask why you would not undergo TMS?

The design of TMS is to disrupt normal brain activity, which is not the design of fMRI or other magnetic imaging technologies. The various MRI technologies work by aligning the nuclei of water, fat, and fluid in the body and recording interruptions in their alignment -- effectively measuring their flow. It is primarily a diagnostic tool, not intended to induce changes in the brain for therapy or anything else.

Repeatedly inducing an electrical current into cortical matter with a high-intensity magnetic pulse is a rather different story. While some of these applications are interesting (such as effectively "driving" the brain with 1hz pulses), the fact is that the exact mechanisms of TMS are not as well characterized as we might like. Brain matter is fragile stuff. It's not hard to imagine that the repeated exposures are simply killing or weakening cortical matter.

Honestly, TMS reminds me of a slightly-more-sophisticated version of shock therapy.
posted by fake at 8:29 AM on May 8, 2007

phylum sinter, Always wanted to know about those mind machines, if they were effective.

Googled pics of TMS and found a few: should have included this basic one in the main post.

Participate in a NimLab TMS study (perhaps they can email you schematics?). The TMS migraine zapper, in French, TMS treatment for depression.
posted by nickyskye at 8:48 AM on May 8, 2007

for nickyskye with love.
posted by vronsky at 11:42 AM on May 8, 2007

Thanks Nickyskye... btw, re: TMS and ECT, TMS is actually being proposed and used at least experimentally as a form of ECT because if it is done with enough intensity, it can cause seizures.

With depression, it is now believed that ECT may work (as do antidepressants and therapy) by ultimately stimulating the growth of new neurons in certain brain regions. All effective antidepressants seem to do this-- and it takes days to weeks to happen, as do all of these things to take effect.

The researchers (including Lisanby, who was quoted in the link I believe) think using TMS this way might be safer than ECT but as effective. I wrote about it some years back for HMS Beagle, but sadly, the article seems to be no longer online.

Ketamine, however, seems to have an antidepressant effect within hours (and it's not "getting high makes you feel better" because unlike with drugs that work in hours, there's no "crash"-- in fact, experimental subjects often don't like the ketamine experience, but do like the lifting of depression that seems to follow)-- so this theory, too, may not be complete. I wrote about this for New Scientist, but you have to subscribe to get the article online I think.
posted by Maias at 4:30 PM on May 8, 2007

fake, thanks so much for your articulate and easy to understand opinion, much appreciated.

vronsky, That was incredibly lovely. *blissful sigh*

Maias, exciting information about the growth of new neurons. I didn't know that but it makes sense. Do you happen to know in which brain regoins?

Googling TMS vs ECT it says: "Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) offers the hope of the effectiveness of ECT without the need for seizures, anesthesia, memory disturbance, time off work, or other problems associated with the provision of ECT."

Fascinating info about ketamine. Amazing, it's an addictive psychedelic. whoa, that's unusual. Would love to read the New Scientist article you wrote. Would you consider forwarding it to me to my email address? I have a library for people recovering from relationships with pathological narcissists/sociopaths and would love to offer it to the few dozen members to read. Whatever, it's great you've written about this.
posted by nickyskye at 7:10 PM on May 8, 2007

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