The Fisher Wallace stimulator claims to be able to cure insomnia through the use of electrical stimulation of the brain. The medical term for it is electro-sleep therapy , although it is also known as cranial-electro stimulation or transcranial electrotherapy or transcranial electrotherapy. It is widely advertised on the Internet although the FDA approval that was obtained in 1991 requires a prescription for its purchase.
Martin Wallace, who had a PhD in biology worked with Dr. Liss and Chip Fisher to develop the Fisher Wallace stimulator in 2012. Electrotherapy stimulation has been on the market since the 1960s. Electrotherapy has been around since the ancient Romans used electrically charged fish to cure headaches, gout and other medical conditions.
The exact mechanism of action of cranial electro stimulation remains unclear, but it seems to reduce the stress that underpins many emotional disorders. The pulses of electrical current, increase the ability of neural cells to produce serotonin, dopamine, DHEA, endorphins and other neurotransmitters. Depending on where the electrodes are placed on the skull determines which region of the brain they will stimulate. After a session of transcranial electrotherapy users report feeling “alert, yet relaxed” brought about by an increase in alpha and a decrease in Delta brain waves as seen on an EEG.
This is not to be confused with electroconvulsive therapy or ECT. When it first came out there was a portable model, which could be used at home, but tended to dim the lights because of the tremendous amount of electricity consumed in shocking the brain into an epileptic seizure.
The Fisher Wallace stimulator is touted as a device that may be used safely in conjunction with any medication since it does not cause any serious side effects. It is sold as a way to help relieve depression, anxiety and insomnia, all without drugs or side effects. They also claim it can prevent migraine’s, reduce chronic pain, and even help you concentrate. All this for a mere eight hundred dollars. But wait, many private insurance companies, such as Aetna, United Healthcare and Blue Cross often reimburse patients for the purchase of a Fisher Wallace Stimulator® when it is prescribed for the treatment of pain using the procedure code E0720.
Teating psychiatric conditions with electrical stimulation belongs, of course, to a long and notorious tradition. At the extreme in this genre is ECT, or electro-shock therapy, which induces seizures—and is typically used as a last resort. ECT has a bad reputation but a relatively good track record, bringing about results in cases of depression and psychosis so entrenched that nothing else succeeds. But it has major side effects—memory loss, for instance—and it tends to sit uncomfortably in the public imagination.
Much more recently, Dr. Helen Mayberg at Emory has pioneered the use of deep brain stimulation, which also uses electrical currents but with much greater precision than ECT, targeting one discrete brain region, known as area 25. The technique has had dramatic effects. Mayberg has reported patients experiencing a palpable alleviation of their symptoms right in the operating room. The Fisher Wallace device sits on the very near end of this wide spectrum.
An enthusiastic convert to the device, Dr. Richard Brown, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, characterizes the effect on brain waves as being similar to that of meditation. Dr. Brown claims to be seeing an 80 percent success rate among the patients to whom he prescribes it, many of whom suffer from major depression that has not responded to any other form of treatment. If Brown’s experience is representative, the Fisher Wallace device has a big future. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs, or SSRIs, today’s go-to for treating depression, show a success rate of roughly 50 percent.
More information and videos can be seen on the Fisher Wallice website: http://www.fisherwallace.com/pages/frequently-asked-questions