Everyone knows that listening to music is a great way to relax, but a new set of headphones could have wearers hitting a new high.

Nervana, the brainchild of a Florida-based firm, is a wearable device that stimulates nerves in the ear while listening to music, which, in turn, triggers the release of pleasure-inducing transmitters, like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.

These are the same chemicals that are released after "feel good" activities, such as sex, synthetic drugs and exercise. The gadget works by delivering electrical impulses — via one of the headphones — to stimulate the vagus nerve in the left ear.

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Sarah Yansura, member of the Nervana team, explains how Nervana can take us to a euphoric place.

What’s Nervana’s main purpose?

Nervana is a wearable product that sends a gentle electrical wave through the left ear canal to stimulate the body’s Vagus nerve, while syncing with music. This elicits a calm, relaxing feeling for users in a natural way, which stimulates the brain’s pleasure center. Nervana combines science and technology to help people relieve their stress and make people feel good.    

What led you to develop this kind of gadget?

The two brothers — Dr. Richard and Dr. Daniel Cartledge — are both physicians who have been interested in vagus nerve stimulation for years and had the idea to bring the relaxing effects of this proven science to everyday consumers. They formed Nervana LLC, which now includes medical and intellectual property experts and engineers to make that dream a reality. 

How does Nervana stimulate the body’s pleasure center in synchronicity with the music?

Nervana generates a gentle electrical signal that is transmitted to the surface of the left earbud on what looks like a standard earbud headphone assembly. When the left earbud is placed in the left ear and the Nervana generator is turned on, the electrical signal beats to whatever music is being experienced by the user, whether supplied to the generator through a user’s phone or through the environment, such as in a concert hall. The electrical signal stimulates the Vagus nerve, which could result in the release of neurotransmitters (the body’s natural “feel-good” messengers). For most users, the results are increased feelings of calm, relaxation and stress relief.

Can the listener attain this stress-free sensation through any type of music?

Yes, Nervana works with all genres of music. It can even pick up ambient sound: for example, live music at a concert. Stimulation will also occur without music through a prepared pattern of signals. The calming effects are based on the stimulation more than the music, so even if you listen to fast-paced, heavier rock music, you can still relax.

How do we know Nervana is safe to use? 

There are over three decades of research on various forms of vagus nerve stimulation that show safety and efficacy. In addition to this research on Vagus Nerve Stimulation methods, Nervana has been tested on hundreds of adults. In the testing of our product, we have seen no evidence of safety issues, including with continued use.

Nervana is not for use by children. While we are unaware of any research showing safety concerns for children’s use, it has never been tested on people under the age of 18. Accordingly, please do not allow your children to use Nervana.

Are there some situations where it is dangerous to use this device?

Because Nervana can create a state of deeper relaxation, you should not drive a car, operate heavy machinery, or engage in any other activity in which electrical stimulation can put you at risk for injury while using Nervana or for 30 minutes after use. Otherwise, Nervana can be a part of your daily routine.

– By Daniel Casillas