Interview: Dr Jason McKeown

Meet the man behind Modius – the electro-stimulation headset that tricks the brain into thinking you’re working out

Dr Jason McKeown is the CEO and co-founder of Modius Health. Here he explains the science behind their new headset and what the future may hold for wearable electronic medicine.


How does Modius stimulate weight loss?

The hypothalamus controls all elements of metabolism, so that’s your metabolic rate, core temperature, your appetite even and all of your hormone profile. Your vestibular nerve connects to that, so we used electricity to stimulate the nerve, similar to the way implants do. We believe that your vestibular nerve picks up physical activity, so it’s almost a reference point to how active you are. Say you’re a bear hibernating; there is zero physical activity, so your vestibular input is zero because you’re just lying there, sleeping. So the metabolism shifts slightly to store fat. It’s a very old evolutionary thing that guides metabolism to how physically active we are. So basically, we kind of hack that connection to some degree and activate it over and over again using electrical stimulation, and that’s how we developed this headset that you can wear for an hour to repeatedly stimulate that part of the brain.    

Why doesn’t this form of stimulation affect other brain functions?

The vestibular nerve itself only has projections into the areas [of the hypothalamus] that physical activity has any reference to. It’s almost like a filter that works by filtering areas that are only relevant for things that connect with physical activity. 

What is the future of Modius Health and wearable bioelectronics?

What we can do isn’t limited to weight loss. That just happened to be the first thing we looked at. So we are actually looking in the mental health space, at anxiety and depression also. We have also started trials in migraines and epilepsy. People think we are just a weight loss company, but the technology is actually a delivery method. It delivers stuff to the deep part of the brain, that’s the kind of cool part of it. Once you know you can deliver something into the brain it’s really up to you.

Is this technology something we might see available on the NHS?

Our first steps are getting FDA [US Food and Drug Administration] approval and then NHS. That is the goal, yes.

Mechanics of the Modius


For more science and technology articles, pick up the latest copy of How It Works from all good retailers or from our website now. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works magazine, subscribe today!