Could wearing a high-tech headband treat mental illnesses like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder or even cure a migraine? A South Korean startup called Ybrain hopes theirs will do the trick.

The Korea Herald reported the device, called Mindd, sends electric current into the brain’s frontal lobe, which has been implicated in depression, through a pad on the forehead. The newspaper said the weak currents will feel like a tingly sensation to the person wearing the headband.

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Mindd is currently in clinical trials, Ybrain’s website says, and could be used for treating people in their own homes for major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and cognitive impairment. The company is also developing a device that could treat migraines.

One of the objectives of the South Korean startup is to offer a home treatment for mental illness that will make help more accessible.

“Though we’ve begun by deploying our device at only hospitals, for now, our broader goal is to help anyone with depression easily receive treatment from home and to eventually raise depression treatment rates around the world,” Ybrain CEO Lee Ki-won told the Korea Herald. “Countless people are suffering from depression every day, yet few seek medical treatment.”

tech_treatment-1 South Korean startup Ybrain is developing a headband technology that could send electrical signals into someone’s brain to treat depression. Photo: Ybrain

While the exact proportions vary by country, the World Health Organization says fewer than half of people with depression around the world get help for their treatable mental illness. That could be because they live in areas without resources, but in some cases, it is related to the stigma attached to the condition.

South Korea has been struggling with depression and suicide, with a suicide rate of nearly 30 for every 100,000 people.

In the United States, where suicide and depression are still a serious issue, that rate is less than half that: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention puts the U.S. suicide rate at about 13 people per 100,000. And it is estimated nearly 7 percent of American adults have major depressive disorder.

“With our device, we hope to contribute to solving this problem by offering patients the option to treat depression from the comfort of their home,” Lee told the Korea Herald.

Patients also could use the device to record when they take their medication, when they sleep and when they engage in physical activity in conjunction with a smartphone application, which would make reports to their medical professionals more exact and could help the doctors provide better treatment for each patient.

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The Mindd headband is in some Korean hospitals now and could hit the U.S. in the next couple of years, CNET reported.

Electric current has long been used and explored as a treatment for various mental illnesses although the technology has come a long way — and is nothing like the classic image many people have of a mental patient getting strapped down and screaming as he or she is shocked. Low levels of electric current would feel like tingles or itches on the head and can be used to stimulate certain parts of the brain that are underactive, like the frontal lobe in depression patients. In the case of developing treatments for eating disorders like bulimia, an electrical current might normalize the electric signals in the brain and help people with those conditions control their behavior. Scientists also have explored using current to stimulate the brains of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients.