Transcranial magnetic stimulation

Remote magnetic manipulation of nervous systems - Hendricus Loos
An image from Hendricus Loos’s 2001 US patent, ‘Remote Magnetic Manipulation of Nervous Systems’

In my review of Adam Greenfield‘s Everyware a couple of months ago, I mentioned – briefly – the work of Hendricus Loos, whose series of patents cover subjects including “Manipulation of nervous systems by electric fields”, “Subliminal acoustic manipulation of nervous systems”, “Magnetic excitation of sensory resonances” and “Remote magnetic manipulation of nervous systems”. A theme emerges, of which this post by Tom Coates at reminded me:

“There was one speaker at FOO this year that would literally have blown my brain away if he’d happened to have had his equipment with him. Ed Boyden talked about transcranial magnetic stimulation – basically how to use focused magnetic fields to stimulate sections of the brain and hence change behaviour. He talked about how you could use this kind of stimulation to improve mood and fight depression, to induce visual phenomena or reduce schizophrenic symptoms, hallucinations and dreams, speed up language processing, improve attention, break habits and improve creativity.

He ended by telling the story of one prominent thinker in this field who developed a wand that she could touch against a part of your head and stop you being able to talk. Apparently she used to roam around the laboratories doing this to people. She also apparently had her head shaved and tattooed with all the various areas of the brain and what direct stimulation to them (with a wand) could do to her. She has, apparently, since grown her hair. I’d love to meet her.”

Now, the direct, therapeutic usage of small-range systems such as these is very different to the discipline-at-a-distance proposed in a number of Loos’s patents (where an ‘offender’ can be incapacitated, using, e.g. a magnetic field), but both are architectures of control: systems designed to modify, restrict and control people’s behaviour.

And, I would venture to suggest, a more widespread adoption of magnetic stimulation for therapeutic uses – perhaps, in time, designed into a safe, attractive consumer product for DIY relaxation/stimulation/hallucination – is likely to lead to further experimentation and exploration of ‘control’ applications for law enforcement, crowd ‘management’, and other disciplinary uses. I think we – designers, engineers, tech people, architects, social activists, anyone who values freedom – should be concerned, but the impressive initiative of the Open-rTMS Project will at least ensure that we’re able to understand the technology.


  1. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the post. We’re actually doing almost all of our development work on a wiki for now (located here) — that seemed to be better for an early-stage project where many people are exploring different options.

    Anyone who is interested can join in, just by following the instructions on our new user page — we’re interested in the process of open medical innovation just as much as the final product!


  2. Peter S Markovy

    That patent guy sounds like a Loos cannon.


    Really, all you need is a 1 Tesla NIB super magnet attached to a motor. See for a good inexpensive supply. Spin that sucker at 6000 RPM and you can induce a strong, rapidly changing field that can easily penetrate the skull. The bigger the magnet the deeper the penetration. You can also mount multiple magnets so you get more pole changes per second. Hey even the expensive research stimulators only use a 1.6T field and need lots of high voltage electronics. This is simpler and works to a point.

    Another possible idea would be to use this for gastric stimulation without needing to implant anything in your body. Wear it under the left ribcage. Lose weight, makes your stomach feel full. Just don’t get it too close to your heart or you could interfere with heart rhythm, or even stop it completely.


  3. Deep TMS is another fairly recent invention that can reach deeper into the brain and target more areas. It can excite or inhibit more brain areas that were previously out of reach. Conventional TMS can only touch 1-2 centimeters into the brain.

  4. matt

    What if you beleive this is being used on you, by a group who does not have you best interest at heart, how would you go about protecting yourself from the intrusion?

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