Hold onto your hats kids, because a new tech company is getting ready to knock your socks off with their prize invention. Named NERVANA, somewhat uncreatively playing off the concept in Buddism known as Nirvana, which is a transcendent state of being that marks the destination for all its followers, this new company is promising to deliver real bliss when you listen to music. No, this isn’t just achieved by enhancing the sound quality either, but rather by directly stimulating the dopamine production in your brain. This way, for the low price of $299, you can even feel happy listening to that new Justin Bieber song.
You probably have had the experience of listening to music and really feeling connected to the rhythm, the lyrics or just to life in general. Music can be inspiring and can actually work to stimulate the release of certain chemicals in your brain by themselves -it’s why they use powerful music in movies to set the mood. Of course, listening to music by itself is apparently not cool enough for NERVANA. Instead, they need to directly influence the release of some extra pleasure hormones; more specifically, dopamine.
In case you zoned out in your psychology class, dopamine is an essential neurotransmitter found in the human brain. Normally, your body releases it as needed and extra amounts are produced during sex, when you eat certain foods and even when you play certain video games. Insufficient dopamine production can lead to a variety of psychological issues. Of course, this would lead one to believe that having doapmine stimulating headphones could be a real gift.
While NERVANA is certainly excited about their work, the truth is that there have so far been no real, independent testing done on these dopamine stimulating headphones. As such, it is hard to say whether they really work. According to NERVANA, they operate by syncing up with the music coming from your headphones and send electrical impulses through your ear to stimulate the Vagus nerve. Coincidentally, this nerve happens to help with the release of dopamine. The concept is definitely appealing. After all, the brain just works on electrical impulses, so if they really are sending a concentrated electrical impulse it should, theoretically, result in the release of dopamine (or some other neurotransmitter).
Beyond questions about whether they really work is also whether you ought to use them. The first thing to consider is that producing this extra electrical impulse requires energy, so if you want to wear these expensive headphones you will also need to carry around an extra power source. Of course, this is just one of the potential hurdles.
Another question you might ask is whether you should really be lugging around headphones that can mess with your body’s natural functions. After all, dopamine was designed to regulate your pain and pleasure centers and if you are a normal person, it is released when it should be released. Is it really healthy to be running around town hopped up on dopamine? More than this, could the extra dopamine production actually create a dependence and therefore lead to psychological issues when the battery runs down? But then again…in toady’s day and age this might be the best thing to be addicted to.