Nervana

Over a year ago, I read this article on electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve for relief in chronic pain sufferers:  https://blog.bulletproof.com/tone-vagus-nerve-hack-nervous-system/  In the study, patients were fitted with surgical implants in the shoulder/neck junction area that gave a direct electrical stimulus to the nerve for controlled periods of time, daily.  The article has the details, and it's worth a read. 


 


Sometime in the early months of this year, a friend of mine with anxiety issues found an Indigogo campaign for a new device that would deliver a similar electrical stimulus to the vagus nerve from a point inside the left ear canal via electrical current carried by one channel of a pair of stereo earbuds.  Knowing as many of us here do that improving vagus nerve tone can have all kinds of benefits, and having read the article on chronic pain relief (my wife has moderate to severe pain issues due to back problems), I became an early backer of the device in March, and yesterday, my Nervana unit finally arrived.  


 


medium.jpg


 


 


I wasn't able to try it out immediately, but I did manage to use it for several sessions today.  It's all quite new to me, but I wanted to start a thread on it to update occasionally as I and my wife find (or don't find) results over time.


 


The basic company website can be found here:  http://experiencenervana.com/, including links to information and purchasing options, if you're interested.  


 


A few points of order:  Nervana does not make any medical or therapeutic claims, such as benefits seen with other devices or studies (such as the ones I mentioned above).  Rather, they bill themselves as a way to enhance music listening enjoyment--which is pretty ironic, considering that other than the electrical stim itself, one of the more immediately noticeable points of the Nervana unit is the absolutely crappy sound quality the headphones produce.  Let's put it this way:  if you're digging the music, it's because you've got a happy nerve.  Your ears would otherwise be weeping.


 


Any old how.  This won't be an extended review.  You can go to YouTube and watch unboxing vids and that kind of thing for a more multimedia understanding of the full consumer experience.  I just wanted to jot down some initial observations and see if maybe anyone else out there was already taking this ride.


 


To be honest, I'm a bit taken aback that Ye Olde Bulletproof Asprey isn't on this by now.  Or I searched the blog, forums, and podcast posts for "Nervana" and came up empty, anyway.


 


So, the basics:  With your set, you get the Nervana amp, a set of headphones (which are proprietary in that one channel has to carry an extra electrical current to the ear), special conductive ear buds for a custom fit, a saline spray pump, various documentation including a succinct quick-start guide, and even a 9-volt battery (which is a pretty good trick considering battery shipment overseas is generally taboo).  They ship worldwide at a reasonable rate for those outside the US (iirc it was around $25, think it was a flat int'l rate).  The packaging is sharp, and the build quality of all components seems quite solid and well crafted.


 


Setup isn't terribly tricky, and if you have trouble there are a number of videos on the Nervana YouTube channel for guidance.  The battery compartment is pretty cramped, and somewhat to my chagrin I did eventually have to go watch the video on battery installation just to see how they got everything to fit under the hatch without damaging the wires.


 


The unit runs in various modes:  Audio mode--for music from an external media device via a headphone patch cord (supplied), or Ambient mode--I gather this augments ambient sound such as at a concert with the nerve stim signal; and there's Program mode, which just delivers the signal without any audio input at all.  I don't know that any of it's important.  Like I said, the phones sound about as bad as you can get without actual distortion (absolutely zero bass), and if the stim signal varies at all according to sound input, I wasn't able to tell.  It reminds me a lot, actually, of using CES devices like Alpha Stim or Oasis.  


 


At the start of every session, you need to select what mode you're using, and you use a dial on the front panel to calibrate the stim with the sound input (I had trouble understanding this part, because a major drawback while you're doing this setup is that you're not getting the actual stim, so you have no way of knowing how your adjustments affect the output).  You set the intensity (from 1-25), and then you choose the session length, which is variable in 5-minute increments from 15 to 45 minutes.  Nervana recommends first-time users to start with 30 minutes.  


 


Fortunately, you can adjust the stim intensity during the session.  I couldn't stop fiddling with mine during the sessions, at first for comfort reasons, and then later just out of sheer curiosity.  So far, the max intensity I've gone is about 13, and the signal at that level seemed pretty powerful to me.  I think this is a lot like CES in that very quickly you can expect to drain your battery, so rechargeable 9v is probably a good way to go, otherwise you're likely to see intensity being highly variable depending on battery strength. Thankfully I already have a set that I bought for use with my Oasis, so I'll be using those moving forward.


 


My first session produced most notably a great amount of itching in my ear canal, so much that I could hardly pay any attention to any peripheral effects.  In fact, it was only near the end when I started ramping up the intensity that I felt real evidence that something was going on below skin surface.  For those of you who've played with CES before, particularly at low freqs, you may have noticed how you can get light-headed when you crank up the intensity.  I had a couple of moments like that with Nervana today.  My friend, who got his unit maybe 3 weeks ago now, uses his at full strength all the time and says he's acclimated to it without any discomforts, and often runs dual 45-minute sessions back-to-back.  Right now, on this first day, it still packs a wallop for me, but by the last session I had a lot less trouble with the itching.  In total I did 4 sessions:  30 minutes, 20 minutes, 20 minutes, and another 30.  there was no particular order to that, I was just trying various ear bud sizes to make sure I got the best fit.  


 


I don't have any results to report yet in terms of benefit or good feelings or whatever, but it's only been a day.  This won't be a massive daily journal or anything like that (I don't have time for it anyway), but hopefully some others out there have their own experiences to share.


Tagged:

Comments

  • hzahza ✭✭

    Quick note today.  I've been struggling with getting the ear bud size right, so for the first session today I went back to the smaller size, and my sensitivity was way down.  I had to turn the unit up to nearly full strength to get a significant level of sensation.  But after a few minutes, the strength seemed to intensify quite a bit, and I ended up turning it back down to about 13 (from a high of 23).  Then I did a second session with the larger ear bud, and I guess that's what I'll be sticking with from here on out.  Still quite a bit of itching, but I'm able to stick it out during the session.


     


    Not much else to say.  I had my wife try a 30-minute session in Program Mode, and she seemed OK with it. Intensity 5.  We shall see.


  • HegReg33HegReg33 ✭✭
    edited October 2016

    I'm very interested, keep me posted on how it makes you feel!


    Check out the thread I posted a while back: http://forum.bulletproofexec.com/index.php?/topic/18394-mood-changes-from-vns-take-time-but-brain-changes-dont/#entry143040


    There's reason to believe that VNS takes quite a bit of time (several months) to fully experience your own "rewiring".


  • hzahza ✭✭

    The thing with VNS is, I don't feel at all confident that anything resembling "permanent rewiring" is even possible.  I forgot his name, but the guy Dave interviewed about the Zona device they sell in the Bulletproof store basically said that you have to use it for life, or the benefits (lowered blood pressure, in this case) go away.  Pete van Deusen at Brain-Trainer.com also recommends regular breathing practice ("RSA breathing"--a certain timed inhale/exhale cycle that activates the parasympathetic system, iirc) to promote vagal nerve tone.  And I suspect a lot of what HRV trainers experience as gains also are due to an improvement in tone.


     


    Here's what I've noticed, after even just a couple of days:  there is a very subtle but definite reduction of reactivity in my general day-to-day life.  Dave mentioned how he would use his emWave in the car to reduce road-rage type reactions to other drivers in traffic, and I've found that I have a tremendous lowering of hostile reactions while driving, going back to possibly the second or third day after use.  I spent a solid year and a half doing daily HRV--often hours a day, as I could keep one hand in the monitor (I was using Wild Divine finger sensors and Somatic Vision software at the time) while studying at the computer--and I never achieved anything like I've seen with Nervana in the past week.  


     


    Now, that said, I still have some difficulties with the unit.  As I feared, it's a battery hog, and there's no rechargeable solution short of buying your own 9v rechargeable rig.  While I already had a charger and a couple of batteries on hand, they drain after a single session.  I'll see if a new set of batteries improves matters, but I seem to remember from previous experience that they drain fast even when new.


     


    I also have trouble getting a good connection with the electrode.  The biggest set of earbuds is just a bit too big to get into my ear canal comfortably and with a reliable contact, and the next smaller set is just too small enough that I have to hold it in place with one hand to ensure full contact.  


     


    Itching is still an issue for me, but it consistently takes a higher level of intensity now to get a detectable level of stimulation.  Part of this may be a battery issue, so I'll find out more on that as time goes on.  Unfortunately, I can't report any progress that my wife is making with pain issues so far--but then again it would be remarkable if I could at such an early stage.


     


    Anyhow, that's my update.  More later as I find it.


     




    I'm very interested, keep me posted on how it makes you feel!


    Check out the thread I posted a while back: http://forum.bulletproofexec.com/index.php?/topic/18394-mood-changes-from-vns-take-time-but-brain-changes-dont/#entry143040


    There's reason to believe that VNS takes quite a bit of time (several months) to fully experience your own "rewiring".



  • hzahza ✭✭

    The new forum looks nice, but my old posts sure look...elongated. Hopefully that's not going to be an issue going forward.

    I continue to wonder about what the implications for permanent improvement are with VNS, but for the time being I have little to report. I continue to struggle with getting a solid connection--sometimes I can barely feel the stim, and then just out of the blue suddenly the electricity seems to surge right into my brain like a switch was thrown. It's a pleasurable sensation when it happens, but it also suggests that I've got some kind of bad electrical connection somewhere, whether it's conductivity in the ear canal, or perhaps something with the unit itself. I need to check with the manufacturers and see what kind of feedback they're getting, now that the units have been out for a couple of months.

    I do have one fairly stable benefit to report: in addition to the general reduction in reactivity noted above--which holds steady--I have a full month of sleep stats gathered from my wrist tracker indicating that I'm averaging almost a full hour of deep sleep every night over my previous averages, the data for which go back over a year. Previously, I would be lucky to get a full 2 hours of deep sleep in a single night, whether I stayed in bed for 4 hours or 12, but now my daily average is nearly 3 hours, and occasionally just over. That in itself seems worth celebrating.

    I finally got some high-capacity rechargeable 9v batteries (they claim to be 850 mAh) and the correct charger for them, so hopefully that'll help ensure that my results going forward aren't being altered by the quality or consistency of power supplied.

    My wife hasn't gotten any benefit that she recognizes yet, but her need for pain relief is much more severe than anything I stand to gain from using a device like this, so hopefully with time we'll be seeing some improvement.

    That's it for now.

  • Pending further major developments, I'll probably make this my wrap-up post here. There are some bugs to be worked out with this system. The major point of concern is lack of consistency. I don't know what exactly is causing it, but the unit hasn't delivered a reliable performance for me since about the third or fourth week with it. I have found better results being selective about batteries (the 9v form factor does not necessarily deliver 9 volts--many rechargeables only deliver 8.4, some go as high as 9.6), but I suspect there's a major problem with the headset, the jack that plugs into the amp, and the wiring to the headphones.

    My right audio channel is already out, just like what inevitably happens with a pair of earbuds once the wiring near the jack gets flexed too many times--I generally go through a pair every year or so because of this. But this headset went out in less than 2 months, which is just embarrassingly bad. I have yet to contact the company about it, but being a GoFundMe startup I don't expect a lot of personal attention. I think that a similar problem is affecting the delivery of the stimulus signal from the left channel. When I first started noticing problems with a consistent stimulus a few weeks ago, there would be moments when I changed nothing, not even posture, when suddenly it seemed like the electrical signal surged to 400% or more of what it was just a second before, and held through the end of the session.

    The last time that happened was weeks ago. As of now I'm getting a consistent level of stimulus, but not even a quarter of what it was, and I don't think that's just attributable to some tolerance effect on my end, because again there were moments before when some unrepeatable change would happen and the effect went back to the levels I experienced when the unit was new. No, I'm pretty sure the headset is the problem. I may order a replacement set, but with the right channel already going out in less than 2 months, I think it's a better idea to wait until the design team has a chance to sort through the feedback and make some important revisions.

    Bottom line: when it works, it can be quite powerful. But just now I would say Nervana isn't quite ready for prime time.

  • Just to update, I was able to get in contact with customer support (being a GoFundMe upstart, I gather there have been a few shake-ups since the beginning), and they were very accommodating in terms of arranging a replacement. I had to send the old headset back, and am waiting on its replacement, but at least there was no beating around the bush making sure I didn't screw something up on my end. There also remains every possibility that the replacement will be every bit as fragile as the original headset, but I can at least take extra precautions to handle it gingerly. Eventually I expect a second generation headset, given the failings of this first one--hopefully sooner rather than later.

  • DManDMan Master of Arts ✭✭✭

    thanks. I was looking for feedback on this device. I expected more from it after reading people getting "high" from it... well, thangs agai @hza for sharing this experience.

    btw the guys from ICES device sell a battery kind of device that you can plug into the power plug so you won't need to recharge batteries all the time and stuff. I think the company is called micropulse llc or something...

    May you be well, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be loved.

    How much to eat:
    advanced | How to train: bulletproof training | HRV: HRV FOR TRAINING HRV BASICS What Affects HRV | Brain  & Memory dual n back training advanced training

     

     

  • I don't know about getting "high" from it as such, but when I first had it for a couple of weeks it could really produce a strong sensation if I cranked up the stim. If you've ever played around with CES, it's similar to choosing a low-freq stim and cranking up the power in that you can detect immediate differences in your perception...that said, the effects themselves are quite different.
    I think it's a promising start and moving in a direction that's going to yield some important results in perhaps only a year or two--depending on the responsiveness of the feedback loops between customers and developers. As these are being produced to-order and in relatively small batches, it very well may work out that we see rapid evolution in the product itself.
    As it is, it doesn't deliver everything I hoped, but at the same time the price point is reasonable and the results delivered are, as noted, promising, and in some measurable ways, effective. And for all i know, the long-term may bring sudden major changes like other Vagal stim products have been demonstrated to produce.

  • Has anyone else had an increase in muscle tension in neck region with headache after using the Nervana? I've only used twice, (on 2 and 3) but wonder if there is something wrong with my body that I may have experienced this reaction. I will wait a week and try again to see if it is coincidental.

  • I sometimes get residual tension in my left jaw, but I think that may just as easily be a result of eating something causing inflammation there, since it isn't something I get every time. One of the other things that bother me about Nervana is that if you wiggle the ear piece around, you get vastly different muscle stimulation all over the head and scalp, so it makes you wonder if it's consistently connecting with the vagal nerve. But given that you've only had a handful of experiences with it, I wouldn't worry too much about something being "wrong with you."

  • hzahza ✭✭

    So I mentioned a few posts back that I probably wouldn't be updating much unless there were major developments, and as it happens, some interesting stuff has happened since I sent my faulty headset back for replacement, in December. Shortly after I sent it in and emailed confirmation of shipment, I was contacted by Nervana to see if I might be interested in testing an improved unit. I said sure, and then didn't hear anything back for several weeks.

    Around February I realized it'd been nearly two months since I sent the headset back, so I shot an email to support to see if anyone knew where the replacement was. The support website has seen some development since I sent the headset back, and there's a webform for submitting tickets now, and I think since i had only been dealing with support via email prior to that, plus holiday shipping and another production run about that time...well anyway, once I found the new webform and submitted a proper ticket, I got confirmation that a replacement had been sent, probably less than 48 hours later.

    And then, instead of a new headset, I got an entirely new Nervana amp, with full accessories, including 2 headsets. It was the new improved version that had been mentioned to me earlier, but I really was only expecting headphones since I hadn't heard anything back about it. So, surprise.

    Here's the basic story, as I understand it: Nervana has been collecting comments and requests from users since the first batch was shipped last year (mine was in the first or second round of shipping, received in early October). I've been told that revisions are still being made, but the unit that was sent to me is identical to what ships now. So this isn't expected to be the final release, but if you bought one today, this is likely what you'd get.

    Anyhow, in case disclosure is necessary here, I've been given a free unit for testing and feedback, but I'm not employed by or otherwise affiliated with Nervana, and I'm not receiving any compensation or even any particular guidance for my observations on its performance.

    So, to proceed with those observations:

    I sent the old headset back right around the middle of December, and received the replacement and updated unit around Feb 18. In the meantime, lacking a headset, I had no way of using the Nervana amp for just over 2 months. This is important because in that time it seems that whatever tolerance I'd built up to the stimulation has worn off in the interim. Precisely how long it takes to build up and lose that tolerance is one of those things I'm going to try to pin down with future experimentation.

    I've asked Nervana support if they can tell me what modifications have been made to this unit, but so far haven't heard back. In the meantime, there are a few notable areas of improvement:

    Battery compartment: I noted before that the original unit had a really cramped compartment for the 9v cell, which gets problematic with rechargeable batteries as they tend to be a little rounded and larger than disposables. From the outside, the two units (the original and the new one) look identical, including the battery compartment door, but it's unquestionably roomier inside, and there's no longer any trouble getting the door fastened and all the wires tucked away without squeezing it all in there.

    Headset: I was told originally that there were supposed to be modifications to the headset, but I'm not able to tell what if any changes have been made yet. Since I mailed the original one back, I don't have the benefit of side-by-side comparison to help spot obvious differences. It seems unchanged, from what I remember. The sound quality definitely hasn't improved in the slightest, which remains the greatest weakness of the Nervana unit if you're interested in using it for enhancing music listening. I would really love to see how the VNS (vagal nerve stim) complements high-quality music playback, because even with the included headphones, it does still sometimes add a "head-nodding" effect.

    Another point on the headset though, which is probably much more important, is that I don't have near the trouble getting proper contact and maintaining it throughout a session. The new one shipped with 4 sets of different sized earbuds (and optimal fit is essential for proper contact between the electrical stim and the nerve in the left ear canal). I don't remember how many came originally, but I had the impression there were 3. In any event, I had a situation where one was just a little too big, and the other was just a little too small, and I'd have to keep jamming one into my ear to achieve the right contact. I haven't had a single issue with the replacement so far. The earbuds I'm using seem to fit better as well, so maybe some resizing was done, although I can't swear one way or the other. Whether it's redesigned earbuds or something else in the headset, it seems to work a lot better and more consistently than the previous set. It's not the amp. I did a session with the old one to compare signal quality, and it seems about the same.

    One final point about the headset that remains to be seen is durability: given how quickly the first one wore out (wire break inside the insulation near the jack), I'm keeping my fingers crossed and trying to be careful handling this one. At least I have a backup this time, if there's another failure. But the actual material doesn't seem to be any different than before. The rubber/plastic compound used for the insulation is unusually soft for headphones and doesn't inspire a sense of ruggedness. Worse than that though, the jumper cable supplied for plugging a music source into the Nervana amp that shipped with the new unit actually broke in less than a day: if I twist it around I can get good contact for a second or two, but it's obvious that even brand-new this one was defective. It raises questions about QC at the source for some of these components.

    The amp itself powers up more easily than the old one: before, it was was necessary to press and hold the power button for it to respond, but the new one just requires a simple press. The old amp could be powered down manually (in a case where it becomes necessary to interrupt a session), but it was a little difficult, and sometimes took me a couple of tries. The new one doesn't seem to be able to shut off at all--you can pause a session, but even pressing and holding the power button doesn't seem to turn it off entirely. I just tried this for the first time, and I'm guessing it'll shut itself off after a few minutes left on pause, but who knows. (it did turn itself off, but I was at work and wasn't able to monitor how long it took)

    More notable is that Nervana has added a new type of waveform to the VNS. Again, it's helpful to have experience with CES or TENS to understand the kind of difference the shape of the electrical pulse makes in the sensation it produces. There is now an additional option an the session setup for Waveform A and Waveform B. A is the original, which has a more jagged, staccato sort of sensation, and Waveform B feels smoother, with more of a buzzing sensation. It feels a lot as though A is a lower frequency, with longer gaps between the peaks and troughs of the wave oscillations, but I assume that the VNS is all done at the same frequency. A lot of difference can be obtained by changing the shape of the wave itself--I've heard about this with electrical muscle stimulation, but never felt it first hand.

    To recap the operation of the device, the steps are in this order: power on-->choose mode (audio, formula) and mode options-->select session length-->select waveform-->set intensity. If you choose Audio mode, you have further choices between Line In input or Ambient, and then you need to calibrate the signal. You do this by turning the large dial in the middle left or right as the audio plays. It changes the strength not of the signal, but in the way it responds to the audio signal. So for instance, if you're listening to something beat/bass heavy, on every beat you get a brief boost in VNS strength. Calibrating it here sets how strong that boost is. One odd difference with the new unit is that during calibration, there's no longer a meter on the screen showing the strength--the screen is blank while you turn the dial one way or the other; the old unit had a visual display during adjustment. In any event, you can adjust calibration at any point during the session, so it doesn't really matter anyway.

    Sorry to make a huge document dump there, but I wanted to get all the obvious nuts-and-bolts changes and observations out of the way before getting into using the unit itself. So far, I'm having better results during sessions with the new model, but I haven't been disciplined about noting what days I use it, or for how long, and I need to start doing that because 2 big questions I have about VNS with Nervana is 1) do you get used to/immune to the VNS over time, and can that be managed, and 2) does that habituation make any difference in the benefits received. I got the idea today that cycling between Waveform A and B on an alternating schedule (every other day, etc) might offset the lowered sensitivity response, because yesterday I did one session with A, and followed up with B, and the B session was noticeably more powerful, in terms of electrical sensation.

    Also, I've been tracking my sleep stats since receiving the first unit last October, and have daily stats from that time to this, including the time off while waiting for the replacement headset in December and January. Briefly I can say that my time spent in deep sleep has increased almost immediately--and fairly consistently--with regular use of Nervana, and once I figure out a good way to do it, I'll post some screen shots of my sleep tracking app to add some empirical measurement. I'll also try to add some photos of the amp and components, because I'm sure a lot of my description is confusing. I just haven't had a lot of time to sit down and write lately.

    That's it for now.

  • hzahza ✭✭

    One quick correction before getting into some more observations: I mentioned above that the screen was blank for calibrating the signal in audio mode, and either I remembered that incorrectly or it's fixed itself, because today it seems to be normal (I don't usually use audio mode so today is only the second time since receiving the new unit). I'm going to assume I made a mistake earlier.

    I mentioned above that a full 2 months had elapsed in what had been a nearly daily usage habit, generally for a minimum of 40 minutes, sometimes an hour and a half. At the time I sent back the old headset, I had been doing typically 2 45-minute sessions daily, at full intensity (25), and was feeling very little stimulation--and had been for quite a while. When I got the new unit and ran the first sessions, I think I started my first session at intensity 10 and slowly ramped it up to 15--it was like I was almost fully desensitized. It felt as intense as I remember it when I received my first amp back in October of last year.

    The next day I ran my first session and my sensitivity was WAY down. I turned the intensity up to 20 and it still felt a little weaker than just the day before. Interestingly, on the first day the intensity stayed strong through both sessions (iirc I did 30 minutes with waveform A and 30 with the new waveform B) without the slightest bit of weakening or reduced sensitivity from start to finish. Somehow, some tolerance built up overnight (btw that first night saw me get more than an extra hour of deep sleep over the previous average).

    Due to this, I've spent the ensuing weeks avoiding daily sessions to see if I could keep my tolerance low. As I mentioned above, it's since occurred to me that switching the waveform every few days might get around that reduced sensitivity issue. I've also avoided running sessions at full strength: so far I go for a maximum of 20 (out of 25), even if I might prefer a little more. Lately I've settled into Nervana use every weekday, with a day or two off at the weekend, and for the last 2-3 days have only been using waveform B. I'll stick with this until it seems weaker, and then switch back to WfA to see if that makes a difference.

    I need to get a decent tracking app so I can keep notes on all this stuff. I remember Dave A mentioning a couple some years back, but I'm clueless where I saw it, and I assume the playing field has changed dramatically since then. Any suggestions, I'd be glad to hear them. I'll browse around the forum later to see what I find. But some things I need to track are number of sessions, waveform used, and overall time.

    Of course, the bigger question has to do with the benefits of use, aside from the perceived personal sensitivity to the stimulation. There are moments here and there when a strong signal gives me a sensation a tiny bit like what you get in the pit of your stomach when cresting the peak of a roller coaster, but the physical sensation is just barely perceptible--98% of what I experience is in the facial muscles on the left side of my head--and my eye, which twitches to the point that it can actually blur my vision at times. Does reduced sensitivity mean greater VN tone? Is it, in that case, desirable? Or does it rather indicate a diminished benefit? I don't even know how to begin addressing any of that. Aside from tracking sleep, and some subjective measures like reactivity in stressful situations--things that are subject to any number of factors--I don't know what kind of side effects might indicate effective VNS. But, given the portability of the unit, at least it's easy to keep a mostly daily habit with it, as I can use it at work.

    At the end of the month, I'll finally get a chance to test the Ambient Mode, as I'll be heading down South to the annual music festival I usually go to. Not much live entertainment here otherwise, but that'll be interesting.

    One other note: I'll be resuming EEG training in the next day or two, and possibly HEG with Brain-Trainer's LIFE program (still haven't gotten around to that), and that will undoubtedly have effects on all the subjective measures listed above, as well as overall sleep quality. I'd like to keep all these threads separate, but hey, life is short and I need all the help I can get asap. Anyway, as these additional factors become relevant, I'll try to make a note of it. It'd be a good thing to include in whatever tracking app I settle on. I found a couple of decent ones except that they're built around a motivational platform with daily reminders and etc.

    One last observation: the timer on this new unit isn't terribly accurate: I ran a 45-minute session earlier this afternoon and it ended up taking just over 50 minutes. I'll have to keep an eye on that going forward.

  • hzahza ✭✭

    Today makes 4 days straight using Waveform B at intensity 20. I thought at first that it was finally losing strength, but it turned out that the battery was low and needed changing. Incidentally, that means that a full charge on a 9v 300mAh battery will get you between 4-5 hours of use, at intensity level 20 anyway. I have some 850 mAh li-ions but the voltage is only 8.4, which made a significant difference last time I tried them. Might make a future experiment out of that later to see how it goes with the new amp.

    I have some screenshots of my sleep tracking app for uploading later, but it'll have to wait until I can get to one of my pcs (on a work computer atm). An interesting thing I've noticed in the meantime is that my deep sleep numbers actually stayed pretty stable during the two months' break from using Nervana, when viewed as a monthly average. But the improvement over last year before I started in October is pretty unmistakable. Anyway, I'll post that a little later.

    I don't have any other biometrics I've been tracking. I don't have pain issues, and my blood pressure has always been good. My wife is willing to try the new amp (her back pain issues are the reason I got it), but it might take months to see effects there, if any occur. All that leaves are whatever subjective things I notice like emotional reactivity, anxiety, or other feelings pertaining to well-being. I felt a big difference when I started last year (this is in the previous record) in traffic, but so far not so much.

    That said, I think my reactivity, like my sleep improvements, have held pretty steady since starting. Whether that indicates any permanent effect is of course impossible to determine at this point, but it does show some promise. At the very least I expect that with future experimenting I'll likely find that I can vastly reduce my use of the amp while retaining the benefits gained so far. I might be able to do it now; but it's easy enough for me to use it for long periods of time daily, so I've just been taking advantage of the opportunity. I listen to a lot of podcasts anyway, so I just use the amp in Formula Mode (you get a steadily rising and falling intensity level independent of the audio) while listening to spoken audio.

    Anyway, I'll get the screengrabs up later.

  • hzahza ✭✭

    Forgot the screen shots. Will get to that soon. I jumped in here to make some updates on a couple of points that I've been tracking this past week or two, mostly to do with the effect of alternating between waveforms A and B and how or if that affects long-term sensitivity.

    There isn't a short answer, but I've learned a few important points incidental to this particular inquiry. First off, the amount of oil on the skin in the ear canal makes a BIG difference in the conductivity of the signal, even just a tiny bit. I discovered this after taking a late shower in the afternoon only a half hour or so before using Nervana. The next day, I had my usual morning shower, about 5-6 hours ahead of Nervana usage, and the effect was notably diminished.

    With that in mind, I decided today to swab my ear first with alcohol to clear as much oil as possible and noticed a couple of spots in there where the skin was broken. While it's true that I don't have the conductivity problems I had with the first headset, I still have to twist the earpiece a little bit and push it back in every now and then to ensure the best connection, and apparently I've been a bit too forceful about it. Something to bear in mind going forward. When the skin is broken, the electricity stings quite a bit, but the nerve stimulation itself is unaffected. Definitely less comfortable though. I don't expect this to be an issue for the average user, because I seriously doubt most people have the time or patience to do 1.5-2+ hours a day at strong settings, as I've been using it.

    On the subject of strong settings, I've managed to avoid going any higher than 20, even after a full month of almost daily use. I spent 7 days last week with waveform B and it was still strong and effective on the last day, although with ups and downs. We'll see if swabbing with alcohol prior to use will even that out. Today is the third day back on waveform A and there doesn't seem to be much diminished sensitivity, but there might be a little. It will be clearer by day 7. One thing I've noticed though is that waveform A appears to drain my batteries quite a bit faster than B, which reinforces my sense that it actually utilizes a lower frequency--my experience with CES has demonstrated that lower waves carry and thus require more power.

    If the frequencies are actually substantially different, that too raises questions about long-term effects. At some point I hope to get some feedback from Nervana about more of the technical details at work here.

    One other little thing that I've noticed here and there is that occasionally I wonder if I'm not a tiny bit more irritable in the hour or two after use. I had that feeling a few times in the first week or two after getting the new amp, and remembered that I'd felt the same way when I'd gotten the original unit last year. But then again I might just be more aware of my reactions in the moment. Honestly it's so subtle that I don't know if it's a direct reaction to the VNS or maybe some kind of release of pent-up tension. Also, it was just a handful of times in the first couple of weeks; I haven't really noticed anything like since. And in recent days I seem to be a bit looser and more relaxed. Well, we'll see how things progress.

    One last note: deep sleep is way down this week, but I expect this is a short-term effect of my having resumed EEG training at the same time. The correlation is pretty exact. After a month or so of both EEG and Nervana, I expect everything will be relatively stable again, but otoh I have a week of music festival coming up, and all bets will be off with brain-training related activities,

    That's it for now.

  • DManDMan Master of Arts ✭✭✭

    @hza What type of EEG device/training do you do?

    May you be well, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be loved.

    How much to eat:
    advanced | How to train: bulletproof training | HRV: HRV FOR TRAINING HRV BASICS What Affects HRV | Brain  & Memory dual n back training advanced training

     

     

  • hzahza ✭✭

    @DMan I have a QWIZ for EEG training. I've done all kinds of protocols with it in the past, but currently I'm sticking to a training program from Brain-Trainer.com. I've also done a good deal of nIR-HEG training, but it's been probably 2 years since I had a regular routine with it. I'll be getting back into that probably in a month or so, but I'm still working out the kinks with my EEG training as I've got some new software to get familiar with. Also I want to start learning more about the neuroscience and underlying theory of EEG. I imagine I'll open a thread dedicated to EEG one of these days, but I haven't decided whether it belongs here in the Brain Hacking subforum, or the newer one set aside for personal biohacking journaling.

  • DManDMan Master of Arts ✭✭✭

    Either way I'm looking forward to it.

    @hza said:
    @DMan I have a QWIZ for EEG training. I've done all kinds of protocols with it in the past, but currently I'm sticking to a training program from Brain-Trainer.com. I've also done a good deal of nIR-HEG training, but it's been probably 2 years since I had a regular routine with it. I'll be getting back into that probably in a month or so, but I'm still working out the kinks with my EEG training as I've got some new software to get familiar with. Also I want to start learning more about the neuroscience and underlying theory of EEG. I imagine I'll open a thread dedicated to EEG one of these days, but I haven't decided whether it belongs here in the Brain Hacking subforum, or the newer one set aside for personal biohacking journaling.

    May you be well, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be loved.

    How much to eat:
    advanced | How to train: bulletproof training | HRV: HRV FOR TRAINING HRV BASICS What Affects HRV | Brain  & Memory dual n back training advanced training

     

     

  • CorstiaanCorstiaan
    edited March 24

    @hza said:
    Any old how. This won't be an extended review.

    Rip intentions!

    Crazy biohacking going on here guys, this makes me doubt the efficacy of my gargling and singing for vagus nerve stimulation.

  • hzahza ✭✭

    @Corstiaan said:

    Rip intentions!

    Yeah. Well, lots of words anyway. I kinda figured in the beginning that there wouldn't be a lot to say about such a straightforward device, but the idea is so new and there are all these little things yet to be worked out, I guess there's plenty to discuss after all.

    I had to give Nervana a break for a few days because it's apparently stretching my outer ear canal a little bit: the fit isn't as good as it used to be, and several times per session I have to push the earpiece back in to get a solid connection. If I switch up to a larger ear bud, it'll just exacerbate the problem. I'm guessing after 3-5 days it'll go back to normal.

    But that raises another point, which is that I need to start finding out what the minimum effective "dose" is, that is, the minimum number of sessions per week that I can get by with while keeping all the benefits. It would really help in making that determination if I had any real idea what the benefits were, and how to look for them. I've got to see what I find by way of published studies and articles concerning VNS. I don't have time this week or next, but after I get back from my vacation I hope to delve into it a bit deeper.

    But it's clear that with the current design, I can't use it daily without expecting more stretching, and perhaps even skin irritations (like I still have after a couple of days off already), and in a practical sense, there aren't many people who can use a device like this every day for over an hour like I have been. Early on I think I remember Nervana making a suggestion of 20 minutes/day, maybe twice daily. I don't think daily use is going to work, given how my ear is responding to the physical placement of the headset. It could be temporary though.

    I'll put those screen shots in a separate post.

  • hzahza ✭✭



    OK, so all these pics show the monthly averages collected from my sleep tracker. In the first one, I picked the highest average so you could see the numbers: just under 1.5 hours deep sleep. I got my first Nervana unit and started using it in the very beginning of October 2016, and as you can see, the average jumps immediately by 40-50 minutes. Then in the third shot, we have the interval in which I had no access to Nervana, which, having scanned the record again, appears to have started after the first week of December, lasting almost through the third week of February. As you can see, February's average is down (the number, which you can't see in the pic, is 1:50 in deep sleep) and my average for March so far is 2:03, which is still 11 minutes short of the November peak. But here's a weekly average that shows a different perspective:

    You can see the weekly average jump sharply starting at Feb 20-26 and increasing steadily until March 6-12 (average 2:26) before dropping back off. I noted above that I got the new Nervana amp on about Feb 18 (and I'm about 90% sure of the date, and if I'm wrong it's only by one day either way), right before the new bounce. The dropoff occurs when I started fasting and EEG work last week, which always throws sleep off. That said, let me show you one last screen shot from last night, taken 2 weeks into that process:

    The dark bands represent deep sleep, and that big one in the middle lasted for an hour and 35 minutes (1:35), and the totals between deep sleep and light sleep are approaching parity. Now, that's just one day, and after a week or two with maybe an average of 1:00-1:15 deep sleep, I was tired. But I've been using this sleep tracking system for over a year and have data going back to November 2015, and until October 2016, when I started using Nervana, I never once cracked 2:00 deep sleep on a monthly average. The closest was 1:48. I also never saw a single band of deep sleep lasting longer than maybe 25 minutes. Going from that to 1:35 is pretty extraordinary--and this isn't a one-off; I've had probably a dozen individual bands lasting over an hour since starting Nervana.

    That's enough posting for now. I don't expect to have anything new until after the music festival, where I'll have a chance to test Nervana's ambient mode for live music.

  • hzahza ✭✭

    So I just got back a day or two ago from the music festival trip I was talking about earlier, and I did get a chance to try out the ambient audio mode feature while there. I'll get to that in a minute.

    First, I got a heads-up from Nervana last week that the extra headset they sent actually had a modification to the right channel to improve the sound. To look at it, you can barely detect the difference: there's a tiny hole at the back of the earpiece, which I gather has something to do with a bass port. Apparently this is an experimental headset and a limited number were made for testing purposes; only one channel was modded in order to facilitate before/after comparisons in sound quality.

    So I've switched headsets to see how different the trial design sounds, and unfortunately, I can't tell any difference at all. I'd really like to say something nice here, but these have got to be the worst sounding headphones I've ever used--going all the way back to the 80s and cassette Walkmans with those foam ear pads that would rip open and scratch your ears. Just no bass whatsoever. I have a couple of other audio files I want to experiment with to see if I can get any different results, but right now I'm just not seeing any improvement.

    Anyway, back to ambient mode.

    I have to say first of all that I was pretty impressed at the sensitivity of this unit. I thought at first that the ambient sound was somehow picked up by the earbuds (a friend had an old set of stereo headphones that doubled as microphones some years back, and I guess that image stuck with me), but it appears that there's a microphone on the front of the amp where the ambient sound is detected. At any rate, it's quite sensitive--so much so, that in my experience so far the ambient mode only really works if the external sound levels are under a certain volume. I tried first with a classical guitar ensemble:

    This worked pretty well, as the volume levels were moderate, with a high degree of dynamic variance. I actually got the most effect from the introduction to the ensemble that an emcee gave at the beginning: just her spoken address over the PA caused the VNS to jump and spike and really provide a nice stimulus. And the enhancement to the actual music was pretty decent, overall. The one thing I noticed though was that the sensitivity was so high--even with the amp calibrated all the way down to the lowest setting--that ambient noise and music drifting along from the other stages (in total there were 5 stages in a area probably about 20-25 acres) that the stimulation had a lot of "noise" from all the other sound sources.

    I took the Nervana amp over to a stage where more modern bass-heavy music was being played, and it was just way too much: the signal barely varied at all, it was just full-on with no dynamics. If it had occurred to me at the time, I might have tried putting a thumb over the mic and other various ways of limiting the input to see how that worked, but it didn't occur to me. I did alternate carrying the amp in a pocket and holding it up with the mic pointed in various directions, but that didn't seem to have much of an effect on the final result.

    I guess maybe Nervana would be best for acoustic music or maybe even orchestral stuff, but rock/electronic doesn't seem to work so well in the ambient mode.

    Incidentally, a couple of beers doesn't seem to affect the stimulus noticeably. However, things being what they were, I ceased my experiment after about a half hour and two musical acts, because as a general matter I try to draw a solid line between my brain hacking and brain facking.

    Vacation is over, and I'm back to my good behavior, and will resume EEG/HEG nfb training within the week. By May I expect all the various activities to stabilize.

  • hza, what sleep tracker do you use?

  • hza, have you got an idea bout the other t-vns devices such as nemos-uk? I'm trying to evaluate which one to buy, but your sleep statistics from using nervana is damn impressive. I use Zeo sleep tracker which is a real EEG tracker (not the fake trackers based on actigraphy) and I only clock 50 minutes of deep sleep. I would kill to get a deep sleep of 2 hours.

  • Has anyone experience customer service issues with Nervana? My unit stopped working after about 6 months. There is no phone number available on their website and I have contacted them through the website 3 times in the last month with no response at all. I really like the unit and miss using it. I can't believe that Dave and Bulletproof would endorse a product that had really awful customer service but unfortunately that has been my experience. There are also numerous complaints on their FB page about the lack of customer service. Any help would be appreciated.

  • hzahza ✭✭

    Sorry, didn't know there'd been recent activity on the thread here. The short answers to all the questions are (since I'm on my phone), I haven't tried contacting the Nervana company at all in recent months, so I'm out of the loop on any developments there. I didn't even know they had a FB page. I also haven't tried any other devices that use this kind of electrical stimulation.

    I use a Xiaomi sport band and their app for sleep data. From what I understand, it relies on pulse intensity to gauge deep sleep, and motion tracking to judge light sleep. The drop sleep tracker seems OK, but occasionally I see it giving me deep sleep time when I know I waa in rem. But not bad.

    Sorry to hear about trouble with service issues. I've had a much better experience overall.

    I'll try to do some updating here soon. Been tied up with personal projects lately.

  • The number on the Nervana website has been disconnected and I also sent emails to two more emails listed on their website and still no answer. I am in the process of sending letters to all the founders. Goof technology, terrible customer service.

Sign In or Register to comment.