Recently I've come across an article from a questionable source called 10 Things An Electromagnetic Field Can Do To Your Brain.

There are a lot of hints in this article that the writer doesn't have a strong understanding of what they are talking about, i.e. referring to electromagnetic waves as being 'high' and 'medium'. They could be high energy, high frequency, but not 'high'.

Regardless of the accuracy or technical mistakes of the writer, I would like to know if there is a lot of truth to this article. The article suggests that areas of the brain were targeted and stimulated with electromagnetic waves.

I know about TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) devices which stimulate the brain via magnetic fields and tDCS which stimulate the brain via electric current, but I have never heard of any tEMS (transcranial Electro-Magnetic Stimulation) devices. Do they exist?

I've done some searches, but have only come up with results to the more common TMS device.

  • $\begingroup$ TMS and TDCS are both forms of electro-magnetic stimulation... $\endgroup$ – honi Mar 30 '16 at 15:23

Maybe this is not what you expected, but since you mentioned electro-magnetic stimulation, I'd like to mention optogentics, where light (electro-magnetic waves) are used to

control cells in living tissue, typically neurons, that have been genetically modified to express light-sensitive ion channels.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 This is very interesting and quite relevant to my question. Though it doesn't answer if such a thing as tEMS exists, without manipulating the biological system. $\endgroup$ – Klik Mar 29 '16 at 21:07

If I understand your question correctly, electro-magnetic stimulation is really quite the same thing as magnetic stimulation.

Typical transcranial magnetic stimulation devices use a large conductive loop, or sometimes 2 loops, and run large amounts of electric current through them. This causes a strong magnetic field to be produced. This magnetic field can alter the behavior of electric current in brain in different ways depending on how it's applied.

There is even a team working on a wearable 'shower cap' with small motors that quickly rotate small magnets. This is more portable, localizable, and versatile than the typical 'wand' based transcranial stimulation, and has shown real measurable effects to stroke victims and also for memory recall tests, so far. (It is very new, however)

One thing to keep in mind is that electricity and magnetism are two sides of the same coin, really, so saying 'electromagnetic field' stimulation is nearly indistinguishable from 'electric field' or 'magnetic field'.

That said, I can't speak for the article. The first line in the article does not bode well:

We all know that electromagnetic fields are magic and can do anything at any time for any reason.

Maybe try to find some articles on the physics behind why it works, you might get a better answer. As an electrical engineer, I know first hand that this kind of physics can be daunting, but maybe you can find an ELI5 about it.

More to the point: the article is very click-baity, but yes, it is possible to use electromagnetic fields to stimulate specific areas of the brain.

  • $\begingroup$ Magnetic fields are different than EM fields though aren't they? I mean magnetic fields can cause inductive currents to flow, I've never heard of EM fields doing that. Could you elaborate on the reasoning behind your assumption as to why they can stimulate the brain (electrically, not thermally)? Would it be something similar to the photoelectric effect? $\endgroup$ – Klik Mar 30 '16 at 3:40
  • $\begingroup$ I realize that this type of question might be better suited for a physics forum, but then there's a good chance that they would just send me back here. $\endgroup$ – Klik Mar 30 '16 at 3:42
  • $\begingroup$ Magnetic fields are a part of electromagnetic fields. The electromagnetic force is one of the four fundamental forces in nature.They stimulate the brain because of how magnetism interacts with the brain's existing electric currents. (Most usually by disrupting or agitating it). $\endgroup$ – reas0n Mar 30 '16 at 14:52

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