CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- An ancient practice is getting a modern-age boost thanks to two brain experts from the Medical University of South Carolina.
What started as a passion project for Dr. Bashar Badran, a neuroscientist, MUSC professor of psychiatry, and director of the Neuro-X Lab, and Dr. Baron Short, a physician dual trained in medicine and psychiatry, MUSC professor, and director of the MUSC Health Brain Stimulation Service turned into the development of a device that gives users the maximum benefits of meditation in just a fraction of the time.
It’s called Zendo and it uses an advanced technology called transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) to quickly give you the benefits of meditation by activating the meditation centers of your brain.
“TCDS actually delivers low levels of electricity to specific parts of your brain through your scalp and through your skull,” Badran explained. “So what we do at Zendo is create these custom, wearable pads that stick to two parts of your head, one over your left forehead and one over your right temple and that is a specific orientation to deliver electricity to the underlying brain targets that are involved in expert meditation practice.”
In addition to fostering a calm, mindful state in the practitioner, meditation is said to deliver a number of other physical and mental health benefits including improved memory, better sleep, reduced stress, lower blood pressure, lessened anxiety, and pain reduction.
Bashar and Short spent nearly five years developing the technology that is used for Zendo and said in their first double-blind study, participants saw a 250 percent increase in feelings of calm, a decrease in restlessness, and a boost in mindfulness perception. Now, Zendo is said to be 2.5 times more effective than app-based or traditional meditation sessions alone.
But it’s not just that Zendo amplifies the benefits, but it does so in just a matter of minutes instead of hours.
“People can compress all these profound benefits that otherwise you’d have to live in a bubble and do several hours of meditation a day and they can compress it into 20 minutes,” Short said.
According to the founders, using Zendo is as easy as placing the pads on your forehead, selecting from one of three modes, and relaxing.
“It reduces the learning curve. Most people quit meditating because they’ve tried and they don’t get immediate effects, this lets you get a taste of what the immediate effects of meditation are in a single session, which then gets you to be more consistent in your practice,” Badran said.
Short described that when using Zendo users can expect to feel a slight tingling sensation that peaks over about 30 seconds and lasts for around 3 minutes.
“What people will notice usually is within a few minutes, their body starts to really kind of relax and soften, Short said. “Some people may notice a sense of time change.”
And the founders say Zendo is for everyone whether you’re a novice meditator or you have years of experience with the practice.
“For people who are interested in upleveling their wellbeing, performance, and transformation and that want to be able to be more focused, calm, engaged, and confident, they’re gonna use Zendo,” Short said.
To achieve the maximum benefits, Badran and Short recommend using Zendo 20 minutes a day, three times a week.
“There is some individualization,” Short said. “Some people might want to use it less and some people might want to use it more, but probably three times a week on a maintenance basis is pretty typical.”
The product has only been on the market for about a year, but Badran said the reaction from consumers has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We have customers emailing us all the time telling us about how much they use and how much they enjoy it,” Badran said. “It’s really safe, it’s backed by science, and people love it.”
Badran and Short agree that Zendo is the answer for bringing meditation into the modern age.
“The time is now for technology to be made for humans to improve their own wellbeing,” Badran said.
“It’s really exciting to be at the beginning of something new,” Short said. “Meditation has been around for 5000 years and it’s 2021 and we’re doing something new.”