Flow, a new headset and app from Swedish start-up Flow Neuroscience, aims to treat those 300 million people with brain stimulation instead of pharmaceuticals. Two friends, clinical psychologist Daniel Månsson and neuroscientist Erik Rehn, founded Flow Neuroscience in 2016 and it’s backed by Khosla Ventures and Johnson & Johnson Innovation. The idea for the start-up came about following Månsson’s Masters’ thesis exploring transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS).
TDCS is a non-invasive technology that sees weak electrical currents transmitted into the brain. In particular, TDCS has been shown to help people with depression. The treatment has been around for a while, usually by doctors in clinical settings using headsets that cost upwards of $2,500. What Månsson and Rehn have done is to create a TDCS headset at an affordable price that can be used at home to treat depression.
People diagnosed with depression often have lower neural activity in their left frontal lobe, the part of the brain controlling important cognitive skills, including emotional expression. The Flow headset uses transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a form of neurostimulation that delivers constant, low direct current via electrodes on the head to stimulate neurons in this area and help rebalance activity. The brain stimulation delivered in the Flow headset is technically and clinically equivalent to devices used in these randomized controlled trials.
Dr Elena Touroni, Consultant Psychologist and Clinical Director at The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, says: “We pride ourselves on treating mental health conditions in an integrated, therapeutic approach. With Flow’s brain stimulation headset our highly respected experts now have a new tool to treat depression and help patients overcome their mental health challenges.”
Daniel Mansson, Clinical Psychologist and CEO of Flow, says: “Integrating the Flow brain stimulation headset with the standard practice of treating mental health is of great benefit to the patient but also to the clinician who can now provide an effective and accessible option for the treatment of depression. We’re starting talks with the NHS to have our headset available on prescription.”
How it works
Treatment typically lasts for 30 minutes per session, with 18 sessions over 6 weeks. Continued treatment is then possible for 1-2 sessions per week. During brain stimulation, users engage with a virtual therapist, via an app. This features videos and advice about depression, and how to reduce symptoms, using recent expert knowledge from the fields of sleep, nutrition, fitness, and meditation.
Pricing and Availability
The Flow brain stimulation headset, which can be used at home, is the first, and only, depression treatment of its type to be medically approved in the UK and EU. Flow retails at £399 and can be purchased here.