A World Beyond Medication: An Introduction into Brain Stimulation Technologies

By Rheyanne Weaver HERWriter
Rate This
A World Beyond Medication: An Introduction into Brain Stimulation Technologies 4 5 1
Mental Health related image
Photo: Getty Images

Have you tried various medications and therapy for your depression, anxiety, insomnia or other mental health issues with no success? Are medication side effects too severe to handle? Within the last several years, multiple brain stimulation technologies have popped up to assist treatment-resistant mental disorders and other health issues.

One alternative treatment option for people with depression, anxiety, insomnia, migraines and chronic pain is the Fisher Wallace Cranial Stimulator. The device requires a prescription in the United States and costs $695, with a $200 per month payment plan. There is a 60-day full refund return policy if the device doesn’t decrease symptoms.

According to the website, “the device generates micro-currents of electricity using patented radio frequencies that have been shown in peer-reviewed research to stimulate the brain’s production of serotonin and dopamine.”

A competing technology is Alpha-Stim. There are two Alpha-Stim devices, one that costs $995 and the other $595. These devices also require a prescription in the United States and treat pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia and stress-related disorders, according to the company’s website. There is a five-year warranty.

Both are portable devices that can be used at home.

However, Paul Holtzheimer, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, is not so confident about the stimulator’s effectiveness.

He specializes in treatment-resistant depression and brain stimulation therapy, and works mainly with transcranial magnetic stimulation, but he is familiar with the Fisher Wallace Cranial Stimulator and its competitor, Alpha-Stim.

“I have not prescribed it largely because the published data essentially is absent for supporting a strong antidepressant effect,” Holtzheimer said, adding that he feels the same about the Alpha-Stim device.

He said he works more with people who have failed one or two medications, and the stimulator probably has only mild antidepressant effects for those types of patients, but he doesn’t completely doubt the device’s usefulness.

Add a Comment5 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Doctors like Holtzheimer make me sick. He only cares about people paying him $12,000 to do the TMS at his doctors office. I'd take the $600 medical device that has a money back guarantee any day of the week. Heck, those Fisher Wallace guys work with Harvard University and that probably is better than where this Holtzheimer went to school.

November 5, 2014 - 1:05pm
EmpowHER Guest

I purchased a Fisher Wallace Stimulator against the wishes of Dr. Holtzheimer. It changed my life drastically. I've cut my meds down gradually and hope to be off of my dosage altogether. There were days where I felt incapacitated due to all of the side effects of the drugs I was being prescribed. I'd feel a bit of relief, but the side effects made me need more drugs just to treat the side effects. It's a real rabbit hole with those damn drugs. I think that's why doctors don't want people using anything that's not drugs.

I decided to do it after I read that Richard Brown, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, was reporting very good results in the Wall Street Journal. Anyway, I hope people don't think it's too good to be true. I wasted months debating on whether or not to buy the device. They had a money back guarantee for two months. So what the hey? Nothing to lose!!

September 11, 2014 - 1:49pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Fantastic! Congrats for thinking outside the box and trying something new and sharing your story.

October 9, 2014 - 10:57am
EmpowHER Guest

Dr. Holtzheimer's statement is depressing (!). I understand he is reporting on the lack of literature--but his comments are the first I've read that are so negative . He may be dealing with very seriously depressed people. I hope I'm not in that category--though I have had worsening depression over the last 20 years. It' going to be a cold day in hell before I do ECT b/c of the memory problems. I hope I'm not up against that wall any time soon. $12,000 for TMS is a lot. Maybe I can hang on until Medicare!

September 5, 2014 - 1:49pm
EmpowHER Guest

After years of having depression, I am indeed weary from trying different anti-depressants that don't help much, plus the bad side effects can be awful. I am also wary of any new one my doctor suggests. (Hint to writer- you might want to change the typo.) These devices seem like they would be less harmful. I highly doubt my health insurance would cover it though. If it worked well, paying out of pocket would be worth it.

June 26, 2013 - 4:24pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Mental Health

Get Email Updates

Mental Health Guide

Susan Cody HERWriter Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!


4109 Health


2629 Lives


2420 Lives
3 lives impacted in the last 24 hrs Learn More

Take Our Featured Health Poll

Have you experienced postpartum depression?:
View Results