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Dopamine-Releasing Headphones Will Get You High

Dopamine-Releasing Headphones Will Get You High

Music has an extraordinary power to make us feel good. Those moments when the beat drops, or that nasty guitar riff kicks in, and all the hairs on the back of your neck schwing! to attention; it’s downright addicting. But it’s possible that in the near future, thanks to dopamine-releasing headphones, those moments may come a lot more frequently.

Although it sounds like something out of Brave New World, dopamine-releasing headphones are real. Or at least they are according to their maker, Florida-based tech company Nervana. In an interview with tech site Futurism, Nervana’s CEO, Ami Brannon, explains how the earbuds work:

We have a device that sends an electrical signal through the ear canal to stimulate the release of dopamine in your brain. There’s an electrical signal that’s paired with music. It follows the beat of the music, and it makes it really pleasant. Through a conductive earbud, it sends a message through the vagus nerve in your ear, which sends a message to the brain to release dopamine, your feel-good neurotransmitter that naturally occurs in the brain.

For those unfamiliar with dopamine, it is often referred to as the “feel good” chemical because it is an essential component of “reward-motivated behavior” in humans and animals. In other words, dopamine causes a pleasurable feeling when you do something that helps with survival, like eating sugary foods, exercising, having sex, or listening to that dope new Kendrick Lamar track.

In the case of these Nervana headphones, which will reportedly cost $299 and go on sale sometime this year, neurotransmitters that deliver dopamine are hacked via the vagus nerve—a cranial nerve that plays a critical role in the regulation of subconscious bodily functions—and coaxed by electrical signals into releasing dopamine.

Although it seems like some serious contraption would be needed to rig the brain as described, the Nervana earbuds look like any other run-of-the-mill in-ear headphones. There is however, a “generator” that must accompany the headphones. Both are pictured below:

Nervana-Earbuds-02202016

Nervana-Generator-02202016

Nervana’s claims about their earbuds haven’t been peer-reviewed, nor will the earbuds require FDA approval, as they are a “health and wellness device.” But anecdotal accounts given by those who’ve used Nervana’s earbuds do suggest that they aren’t just hollow hype. Although there is still something about the idea of a device that delivers non-stop pleasure that just doesn’t feel quite right…

What do you think about these Nervana feel-good ‘phones? Let us know in the comments section below!

HT: Science Alert

Images: Nervana, Nervana via Futurism

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