Can brain stimulation trigger ecstasy?

There has been a lot of work testing if tDCS (transcranial Direct Current Stimulation) can change how people think or feel.  Can we imagine a day when people put on an electrical thinking cap and dial in an emotion they want to feel? And what about the most extreme emotions.  Can we put on a mood-cap that stimulates our brain and set the knob to “ecstasy”?

Well, the line between science fiction of brain stimulation producing ecstasy (as in the Terminal Man by Michael Crichton) and real technology is getting thinner.  A scientific paper in 2019 tested three epileptic patients prior to potential surgery to try to determine where their seizures originated. They discovered that these patients reported ecstatic aura only when a specific part of the brain was stimulated. This brain region was the dorsal anterior insula of the brain.  Those are devices that would need an implant in the brain which may be some time away for regular folks (unless Elon Musk gets his way with Neuralink).

But technologies such as tDCS are already widely available and could be used to target these same brain regions. And at least in patients with psychological disorders, tDCS has been proven to substantially improve mood.

Could a readily accessible wearable device, considered safe by the medical community, be a non-drug option to produce a feeling of “ecstasy”. It’s a compelling question and considering the human and commercial factors involved, would not be surprised if people are already working on it.


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