The Members’ Club That Will Enhance Your Brain
Illustration by Mr Giordano Poloni
How magnetic bursts can rebalance your mind .
Imagine a place you could visit where somebody could see inside your mind, give it a check-up, and make it hum with intelligence and mindfulness, transforming you into the best possible version of you. No, we haven’t just written the plot for a episode of Black Mirror, nor is this concept a twinkle in the eye of some would-be Silicon Valley billionaire. Instead, it is already a reality, masterminded by an initiative called Field.
“Currently, things like yoga, mindfulness, self-help, self-care – they’re all just a side bar in people’s lives,” says Mr Devon White, Field’s co-founder. “As far as I’m concerned, that should be the pillar at the centre of people’s daily existence.”
Mr White is a performance consultant and behavioural designer based in New York. Following a chance meeting last year with psychiatrist Dr Hasan Asif, the pair are putting together the finishing touches on a concept that looks as though it will ring in a new age of wellness. “Field is really an approach to wellness that starts in the most obvious place, which is the interface for all other aspects of ourselves: the brain,” says Mr White.
The physical expression of this is a “luxury cognition centre” in Manhattan, where Mr White and Dr Asif are working on a clinic/spa/laboratory-hybrid space that will offer the absolute pinnacle of mental wellbeing to its clients. Styled as an elite members club attended by what Field’s website refers to as “superlative individuals”, Field Manhattan will work with people who are the top of their game to optimise their potential. “This is not just fixing what’s broken,” says Mr White. “It’s also optimising high performance, wellness and satisfaction in a personalised way, to help people have the lives they really want, both in terms of their own satisfaction and as well as their ability to perform at the greatest capacity they can.”
So far, you’d be forgiven for thinking it all sounds like pseudo-science marketed at the type of CEOs who can bankroll it, but Field’s comprehensive treatment plan doesn’t sound like your standard passing wellness trend.
“When somebody comes in, we take a complete psychodynamic history of you, which is really a fancy way of saying we find out about who you are, what your life’s been like, and what you feel were the biggest events and issues in your life to date,” explains Mr White.
After this, things really begin to get interesting: “Then, we bring you in to have your brain mapped, so we put a quantitative EEG helmet on and we look at the firing patterns of your brain and what this tells us about you. Then, our doctors will compare that to a normative brain database of thousands of brains and say ‘OK, this brain has too much beta here’, or ‘This brain doesn’t have enough activity in the parietal lobe’, and we gain an insight into why they are the way that they are. Then we can begin treatment.”
Treatment, it turns out, consists of more than just performance coaching – it’s genuine and direct modification of the brain. “We came up with a protocol [for our clients]. We ask them what they want and why they’re here – for instance they may want more creativity. We then come up with a diagnosis and a prescription. This often begins with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which is a magnetic burst into the brain, and depending on who the person is and what they want, that is going to guide where the bursts are placed.” These bursts can enhance parts of the brain where the prior analysis says it is lacking.
The implications of this are obviously exciting, but Mr White says that optimisation is only the start. Field already has plans to roll the service out to wellness spas, and there are steps that reach beyond simple optimisation. “Say it takes us six weeks to really get your brain into homeostasis, balanced and optimised. You’re feeling great, you’re performing well, you’re happy with your life, and you’re doing better at work. Then, we want to tweak things even more,” he says.
The “even more” that Mr White is talking about is where things start to get… weird. “A couple of weeks ago I went in to see Dr Hasan and he tweaked my sensory motor cortex, just a little bit,” laughs Mr White. “Hasan likes to play with me, so he gave me an extra burst, and sure enough, two hours later I would walk from one room to the next and I could feel a half degree temperature change, and my internal awareness was off the charts.”
Wait, what? While this sounds more like a superhero origin story than the opening of a wellness clinic in Manhattan, Mr White says that amplifying the brain in this way is the key to optimising human performance in all fields: “Recently I ramped up the part of my brain that has physical learning and then I augmented that by studying with some of the best athletes in the world, and had them pattern better movement into my body.”
In this way, Mr White says it’s possible to heighten your learning abilities in a way that we can quite literally learn from the experience of others, just like the famous Mr Otto von Bismarck maxim. “That’s the kind of stuff that Field can do,” Mr White says. “Bring in experts and turn your brain on for specific kinds of learning so that we can add their expertise into the individual, so that their overall optimisation is inclusive.”
So, how can you become a member? Well, it’s not quite as straightforward as just signing up. “There is a financial criterion,” says Mr White. “Unfortunately as with all new technology, it’s expensive in the beginning, and there are only so many hours that we can apply as experts to developing and applying this technology. Though the intention is to scale it as quickly and as comprehensively as possible, to get there we really need to dial it in.”
Still, financial wealth is just the low-hanging fruit when it comes to Field’s membership criteria. “After that, it’s about people we like and who we think are doing good things for the world, and we want to optimise people who are going to make the world a better place” says Mr White. “As much as possible we tend towards people who in some way or another are contributing towards a more successful tomorrow for everyone.”
Mr White is optimistic that as the technology develops and the business grows, it won’t be quite so exclusive. “Eventually we could be operating at an elderly residence where we’re treating chronic pain. For me, the endgame is wellness for all.”