My month wearing the €425 headset that aims to trick your brain into helping you lose weight
The thoughts of having an actual sunny summer filled me more with dread than excitement as the battle to get rid of the Christmas bulge was still ongoing five months later.
So when Irish-based firm Neurovalens approached me with wearable tech that claims to aid weight loss, I happily obliged to take a trial.
The Modius headset essentially issues electric shocks to your brain to curb your appetite and stimulate your metabolism.
Wearing the device for between 45 minutes to one hour on a daily basis, five days a week, for around 12 weeks, is advised by the makers for effective results.
According to a study co-written by the firm's CEO Dr Jason McKeown, it found that "repeated electrical stimulation of the vestibular nerve may constitute a new approach in the treatment of excess body fat and obesity".
Neurovalens claims that the majority of users (around 80pc) wearing the device for a three month period lose an average of 7 pounds (3kg), while another 10pc report a lose of up to 18 pounds.
I'm not completely allergic to exercise but given the opportunity to maybe lose weight on the train commute? I couldn't pass it up.
In the box
- Medical wipes
Upon opening the Modius package, I was relieved I had first spoken with Dr McKeown who had walked me through what to expect, and what bit to put where.
Describing the device as "careable technology", Dr McKeown schooled me that the headset would send a signal along my brainstem, convincing it that I was engaged in high intensity exercise while I was, in fact, stationary.
So I was slightly underwhelmed when I tried on the lightweight Modius, which looked similar to over-the-head earphones and fit as snug as a hairband.
Wires from the headset are attached behind your ear clipped (like a purse stud) to electrodes stuck to your head with sticky pads - after you clean the area with the wipes.
What better way to try out the headset first while on the hour-long train journey home?
First tip: make sure your hair is completely pulled back, baby strands and all, as I wasted the first of many electrodes by getting hair stuck on the pads (not advised).
Also, my initial impression that the headset was just like headphones was maybe a little optimistic but the funny looks I got could have been down to the fact that I was fighting to get my hair released from the sticky pads.
Second tip: don't try this for the first time in public. Dr McKeown had advised me not to wear while driving as it can make the user feel a little tired or woozy but that a commute was ideal to fit in the minimum 45 minutes.
It probably is, but I wasn't expecting the discomfort when I actually turned the headset on and was already a little self conscious so all other usage was done in the safety of my own home.
A button on the right hand side of the headset turns the headset on and pairs with the device app (you need to download) on to your phone. You use the app on your phone then to start, regulate and end the session.
Tip three: Give yourself time to work up the range from 0-10. I tried setting 5 and couldn't stand the tingling feeling at first (but you do get used to the intensity after a while).
Over the month
There were a few speed bumps along the way that I maintain led to my eventual rather sporadic use of the device.
The hardware itself wasn't functioning correctly initially but once I flagged it with the company they sent me another headset relatively immediately.
I was using the beta app at first which kept crashing on my phone even after deleting and re-installing. Later I was contacted to upgrade to the fully rolled out app that worked much better.
The user inputs their weight, fat percentage and measurements into the app with the option for updating with new (hopefully improved) stats as time goes on. It tracks your progress, the number of sessions completed, and how long you've spent at each session.
I found that I needed more electrodes as they got attached to my hair very easily - and lost their stickiness so that they detached from behind my ear. Obviously, this causes the session to pause while you reattach a new electrode so it can become quite annoying.
Sometimes the newer app wouldn't sync properly with the headset also, so I needed to restart a few times before the application 'found' it.
As I mentioned, my usage over the month was significantly lower than the recommended consistency for effectiveness, so substantial weight loss was unfortunately not recorded.
However, I was hoping to notice the reduction in appetite and desire for carbs that a user is meant to feel as early as week one but all I felt was a little dizzy, and nauseous, during and directly after usage.
Would I recommend?
The Modius headset is marketed as a "wellness device" so exact scientific results - and definitive outcomes - are thin on the ground. Dr McKeown told me that some users have more restful sleeps and can find the session relaxing. Unfortunately, I wasn't part of that brigade.
It didn't work for me but I didn't exactly play by the rules and I think the early hardware and app teething problems have been ironed out at this stage. With a price point of $500 (€425) it's not something you'd splash out on on a whim, but there is a 90-day money back guarantee to act as a bit of a buffer.