Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fisher Wallace Stimulator

The FDA-cleared Fisher Wallace Stimulator.

Do you have to sit quietly while using the device? It’s recommended, but not necessary. You can pretty much multi-task to your heart’s content and read, use the computer, watch TV or chat on the phone while the Stimulator does its work.

The Fisher Wallace Stimulator comes with two electrodes which are fitted with wet sponges and secured at the temples by means of an elastic strap. For maximum effectiveness, it should be used twice a day for 20 minutes at a time. Results usually become noticeable after about five to ten days, according to the company. The Stimulator beeps and shuts off after 20 minutes.
Fisher Wallace Stimulator
by Delia von Neuschatz

What if someone told you that there’s something on the market that can help relieve depression, anxiety and insomnia – all without drugs and without side effects; something that can prevent migraines, reduce chronic pain and even help you concentrate – again, without any side effects? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, apparently not.

Chip Fisher, son of stereo pioneer Avery Fisher, discovered the Stimulator at a business conference and impressed by its curative abilities and lack of any serious side effects, ended up buying the patents to the technology. He subsequently found relief for his decades-long struggle with seasonal affective disorder with the Stimulator.
The Fisher Wallace Stimulator, a portable, battery-operated device which provides cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES), seems to do just that. I had recently heard about this instrument and intrigued by its therapeutic potential, headed over to the midtown offices of the man behind the machine, entrepreneur, Charles (“Chip”) Fisher, to get the lowdown.

Mr. Fisher introduced me to the Stimulator by first strapping its electrodes to my head and then telling me about the science and the history behind this technology. In essence, the Fisher Wallace Stimulator delivers gentle electrical stimulation to the brain, thereby increasing the production of feel-good serotonin, dopamine and beta-endorphins while lowering stress-inducing cortisol.

This is not to be confused with ECT or shock therapy which, while highly effective in treating severe depression and psychosis, has major side effects such as memory loss. At 1/1000th the power of ECT, the electricity delivered by the Fisher Wallace Stimulator sits on the very low end of the wide spectrum of electrotherapy available for treating psychiatric conditions.

Board certified New York City psychiatrist, Lauri Liskin, is an enthusiastic proponent of the device which she has been prescribing with considerable success to her patients for the last five years. Dr. Liskin reports that she has seen the greatest benefits in the treatment of insomnia, but almost all of her patients have had a positive response after using the device, with most of them reporting a feeling of increased overall relaxation.
Dr. Lauri A. Liskin prescribes the Fisher Wallace Stimulator in her Upper East Side integrative psychiatry practice which combines traditional and non-traditional (alternative) therapies. Dr. Liskin has liked the results of the Stimulator so much that she now sits on Fisher Wallace’s medical board.
In addition to insomnia, Dr. Liskin has also used the Stimulator to treat anxiety, stress, addiction, OCD and depression. And depending on the severity of the illness, she has been able to decrease the amount of medication for some patients and in some cases, dispense with it altogether.

Not only can the Stimulator be used in conjunction with medication and other therapies, it can be used during pregnancy and while nursing. Its use does not lead to weight gain or decreased libido. It helps with relaxation, but it doesn’t dull the mind. One of Dr. Liskin’s patients, a medical student, wanted something to help her cope with test-taking anxiety, but didn’t want any sedatives. After using the device, the student reported decreased levels of anxiety and higher test scores.
Singer Carly Simon has credited the Fisher Wallace Stimulator with preventing bouts of depression and mania.
The Fisher Wallace Stimulator can be put to more prosaic uses too. A physician friend of Dr. Liskin’s likes to use it before playing poker to help him relax and focus his mind. Dr. Liskin is careful to point out, however, that this device is not a cure-all. Nothing is. But, as she notes, a small reduction in anxiety can go a long way.

Invented by two NASA-trained MIT engineers, Drs. Liss and Sheahy, the Fisher Wallace Stimulator (originally called the Liss Cranial Stimulator) received FDA clearance in 1991 for the treatment of depression, anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain. (In the case of chronic pain, the electrodes are placed directly on the afflicted area.) Flash forward 10 years to 2001. A holder of a PhD in biology, Martin Wallace, spent eight hours trapped in the rubble at Ground Zero on 9/11.
According to Fisher Wallace laboratories, the Stimulator has also been used with great success on horses by some of the top trainers in the country to reduce cribbing, head shaking and general anxiety.
Crippled by subsequent depression, he successfully turned to the Liss Cranial Stimulator for relief after other therapies failed him. Dr. Wallace eventually began working with Dr. Liss and met Chip Fisher at a business conference several years ago.

Legendary ancient Roman doctor, Claudius Galen (c. 130 AD – c. 210 AD) recommended using the shocks from electrical fish such as electric rays to treat multiple ailments.
Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation is not a new concept. CES devices have been on the market since the 1960s and to date, electrotherapy is the subject of over 200 studies. Electrotherapy, in fact, has been around for almost 2,000 years. Evidence of its use to treat a variety of medical conditions including gout and headaches can be found in ancient Roman medical texts with electrically-charged fish being the stimulators of choice.

Chip Fisher contends that his stimulator is the best CES device on the market because it is the only one that works transcranially. “Not only is electricity delivered more efficiently to the brain when it is applied directly to the skull,” he says, “but competing mechanisms which use ear clips or patches can cause dizziness and nausea.” As a result, the company claims that in excess of 1,000 board-certified psychiatrists have prescribed the Stimulator, “more than any other CES device.”

At $695, the Stimulator does not come cheap. However, judging by customer satisfaction (the rate of returns is only about 10% and that’s with a 60-day money-back guarantee), the Stimulator seems to be doing its job. Compare that to the effectiveness of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, the drugs of choice for treating depression, which is a scant 30%-40% according to Mr. Fisher.

The entrepreneur revealed that sales of the Stimulator, which is manufactured in his own laboratories in the US, are international and robust. Tens of thousands are being shipped to purchasers all over the world including India, China, England, Brazil and Argentina every year. With sales which almost doubled over the past year after having increased a minimum of 30% a year for the last five years and a large army study about to begin at Fort Bragg that will use the Stimulator in its search for treatments for insomnia resulting from post-traumatic stress disorder, Fisher Wallace Laboratories seem poised for a bright future.
Kelly Roman and Charles Avery Fisher flank Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant First Class Leroy A. Petry. Mr. Roman is a partner in Fisher Wallace Laboratories.
“But what about someone like me who doesn’t suffer from depression or insomnia or any other psychological condition (at least to my knowledge)? How can this device help me?” I asked Mr. Fisher. “It can take the edge off,” he replied.

So, I tried it at home for a couple of weeks and besides a flickering in the corner of my eyes and a slight headache after the first time I used it (both common occurrences), I’ve noticed that things which normally make my blood boil (traffic, long lines at cash registers and a host of other NYC indignities) don’t bother me quite as much. At about the same time that I started using the Stimulator though, I moved to a quiet neighborhood with tranquil Hudson River views. So, is it the neighborhood or the Stimulator or both that are responsible for a bit of newfound zen? Hard to tell, but I’m grateful for the store — albeit a small one — of extra patience, and so is my husband.

Fisher Wallace Stimulator
(800) 692-4380
Fisher Wallace Laboratories, LLC
515 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022