My Fisher Wallace Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulator Has Arrived!

I came home from working at the church and noticed a small package on the front steps. I couldn’t remember anything of this size I had ordered, so I walked inside and slide it open – to my surprise, there was the Fisher Wallace Stimulator! I’d purchased it on Tuesday (7/9) and received it the next day (7/10). I don’t expect everyone will get it that fast – but I’m glad it miraculously came so quickly to me. Here is a photo of what you see when you open the box:

Opening the Package from Fisher Wallace.
Opening the Package from Fisher Wallace.

I took out the pouch and unloaded its contents, which look like this:

Everything that comes inside of the pouch.
Everything that comes inside of the pouch.

I must say that the first thing that impressed me was the presence of two Duracell batteries. I know, I know, its a very small thing – but doesn’t it just drive you nuts when you get an electronic device and it doesn’t have the batteries!?!? Well, it drives me nuts. Lets take a closer look at the different components:

Fisher Wallace Stimulator - Frontal
Fisher Wallace Stimulator – Frontal

This is the stimulator. Looks pretty simple. The bottom light indicates the device is on, the lights with numbers indicate how high of intensity it is running at – they recommend starting at two. Despite my great desire to start at four, I started with two.

Fisher Wallace Stimulator Without Batteries
Fisher Wallace Stimulator Without Batteries

Flip the device over and pop off the battery cover and this is what you’ll see. Nothing too fancy, but note the nice belt clip. This is where I first had problems. There are two little hooks at the bottom of the battery cover that need to slip in a certain way and it took me a few tries (nothing major) to get them in. Then I picked it up and the battery cover fell off! What?! I realized that at the top there is a little latch which can be pressed up or down (most simply snap in, which probably makes them more likely to break – so I think this is a better design). Once I had actually latched the battery cover shut, everything was good.

Fisher Wallace Wire Connectors
Fisher Wallace Wire Connectors

Now these wires plug into the stimulator and then into sponge covers which attach to my head. Looks a little frighteningly like I’m getting ready to jump start a car battery, no?

Fisher Wallace Stimulator Sponges/Holders
Fisher Wallace Stimulator Sponges/Holders

This is the front of the sponge containers. Fisher Wallace kindly inserts the first set of sponges for you.

Fisher Wallace Stimulator Sponges After Soaking
Fisher Wallace Stimulator Sponges After Soaking

And here are the sponges after I’ve soaked them in the sink. Not sure if you can tell from the photo but they have expanded significantly.

Fisher Wallace Stimulator Waiting to Be Used.
Fisher Wallace Stimulator Waiting to Be Used.

It only took a few minutes, but now she is ready to go…So, I latch her onto my belt and start her up.

Fisher Wallace Stimulator attached to belt, powered on.
Fisher Wallace Stimulator attached to belt, powered on.

I had no problem attaching it to my belt and you can see the green light says that it is on and the two yellow lights say that it is at level 2. Note that they are actually flashing, but that doesn’t show up in a still photo. 🙂

Dave wearing Stimulator without glasses.
Dave wearing Stimulator without glasses.

And here I am wearing the stimulator…but that isn’t really what I look like when I’m using it, b/c I use reading glasses…it’s more like this:

Dave Wearing Stimulator with Glasses
Dave Wearing Stimulator with Glasses

Yes, that is a little more dorky/geeky looking, like it should be.

Dave Wearing Stimulator Ear Shot
Dave Wearing Stimulator Ear Shot

I also took a close up shot so you can see how the sponge/sponge cover fits under the headband immediately above my sideburns.

Now I did have one other small problem. At first the device was powering on and showing one level 1 activity, but no matter how high I turned it up, it didn’t go up any levels. If I pressed the sponges against my head, the activity went up. I was confused.

As my fingers ran across the two sponge covers at the same time I realized that they didn’t feel the same. I turned the device off, took out the sponge covers and realized that I had placed one backwards (the sponge was pointing out, with the wire against my head, instead of the sponge being pressed against my head). I corrected this user fail and restarted the device – this time everything worked just dandy.

The device has now finished its first cycle and I don’t feel any noticeable difference, nor did I really feel anything during the entire process. If it wasn’t for the lights on the device, I would have questioned if anything was happening.

So, there ya are. You’ve experienced my first trial with this device. I intend on using it twice a day (once in the morning, once before bed) for the next several weeks and report my findings on a daily basis…but don’t worry, I won’t clog Dave Enjoys up with that, instead I’ll post about it over at OCD Dave. So if you want to read about the ongoing saga you can subscribe to Dave Enjoys using the email subscription box on the right of the OCD Dave blog page or you can use RSS (if you are a geek :)) or you can like the OCD Dave Facebook page and notices of new blog posts will go up there.

Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation – An Introduction

[NOTE: This post is still in process, but I’ve been fascinated by this treatment methodology, so I’ve done quite a bit more development of it from the original article and while I will continue to revise it, I think it is fairly sufficient. Next step is for me to get my hands on one of these devices and try it for myself…]

Introduction

I’m frustrated. It is 4:05 am and I haven’t been asleep for more than 10-15 minutes at a time yet. Bouts of insomnia like this are an occasional and frustrating occurrence for me. Usually I can’t fall asleep until 6 am – and then what? Sleep through the next day? Gahh!

Image courtesy of OpenClipart.org and laobc.
Image courtesy of OpenClipart.org and laobc.

I decided to Google “what to do the day after insomnia” and came across an ad for a Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation[1] device. It allegedly works with insomnia, anxiety, depression, pain, etc. Sounds too good to be true right? Yeah, probably, but I figure I’ll do some research and share here what I find out…

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • General Claims / Specifications
  • Products / Manufacturers
    • Electromedical Products / Alpha-Stim
    • Fisher Wallace Laboratories / Stimulator
    • Neuro-Fitness / CES Ultra.
    • Other Vendors.
  • Similar / Related Treatments.
  • Recommended Reading.
  • Annotated Bibliography.

General Claims / Specifications

In this section I’ll discuss various claims that are generally made across device manufacturers and then look at some specific claims from various device manufacturers in separate sections below.

  • The devices provide electrical stimulation to the brain in a similar way to Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT).
  • They are very safe and have been in use since the 1960’s.[2]
  • They are much more cost effective over time than antidepressant medications.
  • Rare side effects are headache, dizzines, skin irritation.
  • CES has never been documented causing a seizure.

Products / Manufacturers

Below you’ll find a list of products/manufacturers. The three main manufacturers appear to be Electromedical Products with Alpha-Stim, Fisher Wallace Laboratories with their Stimulator, and Neuro-Fitness’ CES Ultra. Other vendors – still present or defunct are listed below these companies.

Electromedical Products: Alpha-Stim

  • Product introduced to the market in 1981.
  • Company founded by Dr. Daniel L. Kirsch.
  • Warranty: 5 Year Manufacturers Warranty.
  • Current: 0-600 mA.
  • Frequency: 0.5, 1.5, or 100 Hz w/constant 0.4 Hz.
  • There Alpha-Stim M product is meant to treat pain, anxiety, insomnia, and depression – while the AID does not treat pain.
  • Largest customers are the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
  • Advocates: Dr. Daniel L. Kirsch (President, American Institute of Stress)[3], Dr. Brian Earthman, Dr. Larry R. Price, Dr. Jeffrey A. Marksberry, Dr. William Wong, Dr. Regina McGlothlin, Dr. Norman L. Dykes, Dr. Harry Nakata, Dr. Richard H. Cox (Research Consultant, Duke University Medical Center; Associate Fellow, Georgetown University Medical Center), Dr. Margaret M. Waddington (neurologist), Dr. David J. Fair (Chaplain),

Fisher Wallace Laboratories: Fisher Wallace Stimulator

  • Price: $495-$715.
  • Returns: 60 Days (claim less than 10% return devices).
  • Warranty: 5 Year Manufacturers Warranty.
  • Can be used safely with any medication.
  • Functions by stimulating the brain’s production of neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin, beta-endorphin).
  • Usually used 2x daily for twenty minutes.
  • Symptom reduction occurs within 1-4 weeks.
  • Based on acquired technology from Dr. Saul Liss, formerly known as “Liss Cranial Stimulator.”
  • Offers the contact info. for a “licensed healthcare practitioner” who will provide “over-the-phone” authorization to appropriate individuals for $50.
  • Advocates: Dr. Richard Brown (Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center), Dr. Andres San Martin (Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center), Dr. Karen Hopenwasser (Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell College of Medicine), Dr. Paul Fauteck (Psy.D.), Dr. Robert Cancro (Professor/Chairman, Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine)[4], Dr. Stephen N. Xenakis, Dr. Ronald Podell, Dr. Kelly Brogan, Dr. Lauri Liskin (Clinical Assistan Professor of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell College of Medicine), Dr. Bruce Johnson (Staff Psychiatrist, Crozer Medical Center), Dr. Stephen J. Press, Dr. Sandlin Lowe (Faculty, New York University School of Medicine).

Neuro-Fitness: CES Ultra

  • Price: $349.
  • Returns: 30 Days Unconditional Money Back Guarantee.
  • Warranty: 1 Year Parts/Labor.
  • Advocates: Dr. Charles McCusker, Dr. Eric Braverman (Director, PATH Medical), Dr. Jonathan Douglas.

Other Vendors

The three vendors above appear to be the main competitors in this market. The companies below did / do sell CES devices, but when we are talking about electrifying one’s brain, I’m going to stick with the market leaders – especially when most of these companies seem to be defunct.

  • Orion Medical Group. Magnetic Black Belt – Couldn’t find much info. on this company.
  • Health Directions. HealthPax – Difficulty finding info. related to this product, though it appears to still be sold. Wondering if it is related to the NutriPax that was scathed by QuackWatch?
  • Neurotone Systems. Neurotone – Not much info. available, found a company called Neurotone, but doesn’t sell CES devices, unsure if related.
  • Kalaco Scientific, Inc. Transcranial Electrotherapy Stimulator-A – Little info. available, it appears a business with this name experienced legal troubles and is probably out of business.

Similar / Related Treatments

  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).
    • Fisher Wallace suggests that TMS treatments cost around $8k-$12k and aren’t covered by insurance.
    • Fisher Wallace states that TMS has only been cleared by FDA for treating Major Depressive Disorder, while their device is cleared for depression, anxiety, insomnia, and pain.
    • TMS is performed at a doctor’s office with expensive equipment.
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT).
    • Has a very bad reputation due to its portrayal in movies and its historical abuses within psychiatry.
    • Delivers 800-1000+ mA of electricity, compared to 1-4 mA for Fisher Wallace.
    • Cost is significant, though can be reimbursed (sometimes) by insurance.
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS).
    • Approved by FDA for other purposes (“lontophoresis”) not for depression, anxiety, etc.

Recommended Reading

Annotated Bibliography

[Note: I’ve barely touched the available research, Google Scholar is returning 2,190 results relating to the query “cranial electrotherapy stimulation]

  1. [1]Outside the United States it is oftentimes referred to as “electrosleep.” In the past was known by terms including “transcranial electrotherapy (TCET)” and “neuroelectric therapy (NET).”
  2. [2]Alpha-Stim claims “no serious adverse events reported” since launching the product in 1981.
  3. [3]He has numerous other credentials.
  4. [4]Dr. Cancro has numerous other credentials.
  5. [5]I say this very tentatively, I really could be reading these results backwards.