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Is DIY Brainhacking Safe?

Unknown Lamer posted about 5 months ago | from the frying-your-brain-for-fun-and-profit dept.

Hardware Hacking 183

An anonymous reader writes "My colleague at IEEE Spectrum, Eliza Strickland, looked at the home transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) movement. People looking to boost creativity, or cure depression, are attaching electrodes to their heads using either DIT equipment or rigs from vendors like Foc.us. Advocates believe experimenting with the tech is safe, but a neuroscientist worries about removing the tech from lab safeguards..."

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Predictions? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46512815)

How long until the first Darwin Award is given to someone attempting this?

Re:Predictions? (3, Insightful)

pitchpipe (708843) | about 5 months ago | (#46513065)

I'm thinking not long. Although tempting, I don't want to be the guinea pig.

I learned how to fix and improve computers through tinkering (which I would consider a form of hacking). What usually would happen is I would try to upgrade something, break my computer, and then spend the next four hours trying to fix it. The problem here is that you would be breaking the 'fixer' with no time to google how to roll back the buggy changes.

Re:Predictions? (3, Interesting)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 5 months ago | (#46513309)

Edison's Medicine

Georgia Power cocktail

Don't taze me, bro'!

Re:Predictions? (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 5 months ago | (#46513165)

You'll be waiting a long time with that 40 IQ, while the rest of us get that extra boost up to 80! What could go wrong?

Re:Predictions? (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 5 months ago | (#46513385)

You're using hexadecimal I hope.

Re:Predictions? (0)

ev4de (3581523) | about 5 months ago | (#46514007)

IQ tests are biased & not applicable for general usage anyway. Quite possibly, each and every person is similarly intelligent, only adapted to different environments. See some mouse trials from a while back, I'd dig up a link if I had the time.

Re:Predictions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46514271)

Quite possibly, each and every person is similarly intelligent, only adapted to different environments.

Yeah, the dumb kids are just really 'street smart'... They only sound retarded so they don't get called 'fag' by the other bums.

Re:Predictions? (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | about 5 months ago | (#46514475)

IQ tests are [...] not applicable for general usage

Childhood IQ tests is one of the best predictions we have of adult success, in whatever terms we have tried to measure that. They aren't good, but they are better than, say, socio-economic status of the home.

Quite possibly, each and every person is similarly intelligent, only adapted to different environments.

You haven't been teaching much, I can hear. It seems that some people are just faster at understanding and applying information than others. In what environment is it an advantage to be slow to understand new information? Even within the same social strata, there still seem to be quite a spread, which wouldn't be expected if it was simply adaption.

Re:Predictions? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513739)

How long until the first Darwin Award is given to someone attempting this?

I've been doing chemical hacks with my brain for quite awhile. Initially, I was hopeful about interesting results; now, as long as I get a buzz, it's all good.

Re:Predictions? (1)

tchdab1 (164848) | about 5 months ago | (#46513865)

Next threshold: grateful for getting up in the morning.

Re:Predictions? (1)

Geek Hillbilly (2975053) | about 5 months ago | (#46513763)

The real dangers,besides frying your brain,will be the ultimate of addictions.Called Wireheading,with electrodes implanted into the pleasure center of the brain,you could possibly "Pleasure "yourself until you die of neglect.I first heard of this via the Known Space series of books by Larry Niven.(Louis Wu was a wirehead in The Ringworld Engineers) Take your time,think it through(Something else from those books)

Re:Predictions? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 5 months ago | (#46513921)

The real dangers,besides frying your brain,will be the ultimate of addictions.Called Wireheading,with electrodes implanted into the pleasure center of the brain,you could possibly "Pleasure "yourself until you die of neglect.I first heard of this via the Known Space series of books by Larry Niven.(Louis Wu was a wirehead in The Ringworld Engineers)

Take your time,think it through(Something else from those books)

People already kill themselves with drugs in very unpleasurable ways. Dying during orgasm with electrodes on your scalp sounds a lot better than dying after your everything rots off from krokodil.

Re: Predictions? (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about 5 months ago | (#46514477)

If you're into that kind of sci fi, check out Mindkiller by Spider Robinson. The book opens with a burglar finding a woman committing suicide by wireheading when he breaks into her apartment and runs from there. Great book.

Re:Predictions? (1)

DTentilhao (3484023) | about 5 months ago | (#46513779)

> How long until the first Darwin Award is given to someone attempting this? Haa !!!

Re:Predictions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513995)

Those pussies can't qualify easily for such a prestigious price. The award will go to the emerging home intracranial direct current stimulation (iDCS) community. Self-help for Parkinson's syndrome is a particular hit.

We've done this one before... (1)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about 5 months ago | (#46512819)

Re:We've done this one before... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46512849)

"Is DIY Brainhacking Safe" ... WITH DRONES?

Re:We've done this one before... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46512909)

It's called "Do-In-Yourself" technology for a reason...

Stupid (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46512825)

"People looking to boost creativity, or cure depression, are attaching electrodes to their heads using either DIT equipment or rigs from vendors like Foc.us."

If this tech can REALLY cure depression or boost creativity, then it is just as likely to cause depression or remove your creativity. I wouldn't take that chance with something as elementally "me" as my mind.

Re:Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513015)

If this tech can REALLY cure depression or boost creativity, then it is just as likely to cause depression or remove your creativity.

This isn't inherently true, as such stimuli could have a tendency to direct your mind toward a particular state, as opposed to just randomizing the state or producing a variety of different states, etc. That said, without knowing what is going on it is hard to say what exactly it will do, but I wouldn't use the phrase "just as likely" when comparing different outcomes.

Re:Stupid (2)

khallow (566160) | about 5 months ago | (#46513493)

I'd use the phrase "more likely" based on a thermodynamics argument. My take is that states where the brain functions better are far fewer than states where it works worse. So any modification of brain function is more likely to slide into a poorer state rather than a better one.

Re:Stupid (2)

El Puerco Loco (31491) | about 5 months ago | (#46513869)

So what, it can take your brain from New York to like, Texas or Alabama?

Re:Stupid (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 5 months ago | (#46513025)

yep..

if it has any chance of working it probably has some chance of damaging too.

it's just a way to relieve some people out of their money.

Re:Stupid (2)

canadiannomad (1745008) | about 5 months ago | (#46513281)

Yeah, well a business that call's itself "foc us" and sells a few dollars(cents?) worth of "simple circuits, and a couple of electrodes" to couch bums for $250 is definitely just out to "relieve some people out of their money."

Re:Stupid (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 months ago | (#46513029)

I know a few people where it can only be an improvement if they're no longer themselves...

the internet circa 1995 (2)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#46513191)

I wouldn't take that chance with something as elementally "me" as my mind.

right? me neither...

problem is, there are tons of people willing to line up to do this...**tons**...and they will all surely blog about it in hopes of getting picked up by mainstream news publications

with this "brain mod" crap I'm getting a bad feeling...

remember back in the early days of the 'web'...say 1995 when AOL was king...we all knew that there was so much more that could be done with the internet but even then, the question was **are we willing to sacrifice privacy**

same with cell phones

i remember when the internet was new, everyone was skeptical of it & **assumed** what they did on the internet was not private...

then the commercialization effort started in earnest and before long every desk job required internet usage...

what I'm getting at is ***I feel that same feeling now***

SKEPTICAL...it's not what its made out to be...and if we ever *do* get hyper-selective brain stimulation I can only envision all the ways the tech could be misused

Re:the internet circa 1995 (2)

khallow (566160) | about 5 months ago | (#46513625)

I can only envision all the ways the tech could be misused

Don't worry. There'll be a fix for that.

Re:Stupid (4, Funny)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 5 months ago | (#46513395)

With a name like foc.us it's gotta be good. With all the money they saved by not hiring someone to find out if it sounds funny when spoken aloud they added extra safeguards.

Time for the old standby... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46512827)

What could possibly go wrong?

Go ahead (2, Funny)

msobkow (48369) | about 5 months ago | (#46512829)

Go ahead. Fry your brain. It's not like you're using it or anything. :(

Re:Go ahead (1, Flamebait)

Marginal Coward (3557951) | about 5 months ago | (#46512979)

Re:Go ahead (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 5 months ago | (#46513113)

Well, at least the people doing this are not anyway...

Re:Go ahead (1)

Nyder (754090) | about 5 months ago | (#46513181)

Go ahead. Fry your brain. It's not like you're using it or anything. :(

I prefer to bake my brain. Apparently baking is better then frying.

Re:Go ahead (1)

antdude (79039) | about 5 months ago | (#46513449)

I don't even have a brain. :P

Re:Go ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513475)

I don't even have a brain. :P

Somewhere on a higher mental plane,
I might learn to come in from the rain,
If I only had a clue,
Would I still be here with you?
Gee whiz, if I only had a brain [youtube.com]

"It would have worked if you hadn't stopped me." (1, Redundant)

cirby (2599) | about 5 months ago | (#46512853)

- E. Venkman

Re:"It would have worked if you hadn't stopped me. (1)

o_ferguson (836655) | about 5 months ago | (#46512953)

I think the quote is actually "that would have worked if you hadn't stopped me." - P. Venkman

Re:"It would have worked if you hadn't stopped me. (1)

arielCo (995647) | about 5 months ago | (#46512973)

- Egon Spengler

(obligatory nod to the memory of Harold Ramis)

Depends on how long the drill-bit is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46512861)

Q.E.D.

Betteridge's law of headlines (3, Funny)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 5 months ago | (#46512873)

No.

( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] )

Re:Betteridge's law of headlines (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46512967)

Next submission on /.

Ok. So is DIY Brainhacking Hazardous?

Re:Betteridge's law of headlines (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513317)

then the submission after that: "Is Betteridge's law of headlines correct?"

Re:Betteridge's law of headlines (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about 5 months ago | (#46513741)

then the submission after that: "Is Betteridge's law of headlines correct?"

And slashdot's servers react like Mudd's android [youtube.com] .

I wonder if beta has paradox absorbing crumple zones?

as long as you have the download code (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 5 months ago | (#46512887)

then just jack in away.

Drugs are probably safer (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46512899)

Can we just legalize drugs instead? Most of them actually have a proven safety record, despite governmental claims (mdma, for example, is significantly less toxic than acetaminophen).

Re:Drugs are probably safer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46512919)

Apples and oranges. They are completely different drugs, used for different reasons and with different side effects. MDMA can cause damage to the brain, acetaminophen can cause damage to the liver.

Re:Drugs are probably safer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513057)

Except there have been only a few studies regarding MDMA's supposed brain damage, and they have come to different conclusions.

If you want to criticize MDMA you should probably focus on the comparatively well-established psychological effects of long-term regular usage, rather than the somewhat dubious claims of neurotoxicity.

Re: Drugs are probably safer (2)

WilyCoder (736280) | about 5 months ago | (#46513365)

The generally accepted usage regimen of MDMA is once every three months. That indicates that MDMA is highly disruptive to the normal functioning of the brain. There would be more quantitative studies of MDMA if the stupid government would allow it. But one can look at heavy users of MDMA for a good gut-feeling estimate of the toxicity of MDMA. Other drugs such as LSD and psilocybin are not suspected of being neurotoxic like MDMA possibly is...

Re:Drugs are probably safer (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about 5 months ago | (#46513745)

Apples and oranges. They are completely different drugs, used for different reasons and with different side effects. MDMA can cause damage to the brain, acetaminophen can cause damage to the liver.

Far fewer people use their brains than use their liver.

Re:Drugs are probably safer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513285)

No. We can't. Get back to 420chan.

Re:Drugs are probably safer (1)

ev4de (3581523) | about 5 months ago | (#46513985)

Many standard "Big Pharma" drugs are also neurotoxic. It's kinda hard finding data on that. Yeah, I know this is not a conspiracy, this is just how the market works etc. Marketing trumps safety.

Is this dangerous? (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | about 5 months ago | (#46512917)

Redneck haircut [strangecosmos.com]

zapping your own head? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46512939)

what's next, self-lobotomy?

Re:zapping your own head? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 months ago | (#46513603)

I always wanted to open a Drive-Thru Lobotomy joint. Had difficulty raising funds. There was concern the exit was not sufficiently reinforced.
 

The inexpensive route (1)

edibobb (113989) | about 5 months ago | (#46512955)

I read on the internet that you can use an arc welder for this.

Sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46512987)

Go for it.

Niven reference (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 5 months ago | (#46513007)

Do you want to be a wirehead

Re:Niven reference (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 5 months ago | (#46513077)

Those books sucked.

I'm just saving anyone from looking up that authors name, ordering any of his books on amazon and then proceeding to waste a good 40hrs of their lives before realizing he's a terrible author.

No offense if you like him. I like hot-dogs, but I'm not about to claim they're some kind of delicacy. Although, hot dogs could likely write better than Niven, but I digress.

It's called "DIY Brainhacking" (1)

Lumpio- (986581) | about 5 months ago | (#46513013)

Is it even possible for that to sound the least bit safe to any sane individual?

Re:It's called "DIY Brainhacking" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513071)

This is slashdot; if you were expecting to find sane individuals, you've probably come to the wrong place.

Re:It's called "DIY Brainhacking" (1)

somepunk (720296) | about 5 months ago | (#46513157)

simple, just use the existing, tried 'n true APIs until the new ones are vetted. I hack on my brain all the time. All the sane kids are doing it!

Re:It's called "DIY Brainhacking" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513315)

Not Invented Here, and I've Got a Great Start-Up?

I swear, the dotcom is doing its best to come back in force.

Re:It's called "DIY Brainhacking" (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 5 months ago | (#46513613)

i was at the bookstore yesterday and came across the "diy law" section, which sounds equally dubious.

Re:It's called "DIY Brainhacking" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513939)

Stupid name indeed, even though I've increasingly realized that learning at least certain areas of law yourself (such as consumer rights) seems very beneficial. Not because I'm so dumb that I plan to ever represent myself should the need for a lawyer to arise but because knowing when I should consult with one. As I've learned more by studying some on my own, I have realized that sometimes when I've gotten shitty treatment by a company and felt that "this isn't right but I don't know if it's illegal", I would actually not simply have had to "suck it up", if only I had turned to a lawyer. But thinking that I don't have a case and thus don't want to waste money on a lawyer, I didn't do it.

Re:It's called "DIY Brainhacking" (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 5 months ago | (#46513961)

If these people were sane, they would have some minimum of common sense. They do not have that. Hence it is perfectly safe, as where there is nothing, nothing can get broken...

Yessssss (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513021)

sssssCarrier lost

it saf (1)

pitchpipe (708843) | about 5 months ago | (#46513039)

i ben hakin my bren its ben rely gude. i wuz werried fur a bit butt my lernins ben rely takkin off.

Re:it saf (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 5 months ago | (#46513189)

Algernon, is that you?

Re: it saf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513959)

Algernon is the mouse. The protagonist is Charlie Gordon.

9-volt Battery / Scrotums (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513097)

blah blah blah. It's a 9-volt battery. This is hardly the kind of thing that makes for a nightmare scenario where thousands of people around the country fry their brains.

Have you _seen_ the internet? There a hundred times more people who nail their scrotums to the chair as a hobby, and way more than that who run much more than 9-volts through their genitals.

I'm not about to do any of these things, or anything even remotely similar. But knowing the _reality_ of the crazy stuff people do really helps to put things into perspective.

What does that have to do with anything? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513101)

Safe? Hell no.

But so what? Why should that stop people, if they want to experiment on themselves? It's their brains.

Isaac Newton stuck a bodkin in his eyeball, to observe what effect it had on his vision.

Re:What does that have to do with anything? (1)

kwbauer (1677400) | about 5 months ago | (#46513863)

but that would have been back in the bad old days where the government didn't care about us. We have progressed so much since.

Of course (4, Funny)

Kardos (1348077) | about 5 months ago | (#46513105)

I did it last week. Setting up the electrodes was the easy part. The hard part was setting up the electrodes!

Mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513129)

How long before you have to submit to such "modifications"? To enhance soldiers in the field perhaps?
Or once those not doing it lose their jobs for someone that's more of a "team player"?
Perhaps to ensure the kids are all at the same level in class and learn what we want them to learn instead?

No worries (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about 5 months ago | (#46513143)

If something were to go wrong you'd know it..

Monsters, John... Monsters from the Id. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513183)

Doc Ostrow: Morbius was too close to the problem. The Krell had completed their project. Big machine. No instrumentalities. True creation.

Commander John J. Adams: Come on, Doc, let's have it.

Doc Ostrow: But the Krell forgot one thing.

Commander John J. Adams: Yes, what?

Doc Ostrow: Monsters, John. Monsters from the Id.

Commander John J. Adams: The Id? What's that? Talk, Doc!

[Doc slumps and dies]

Commander John J. Adams: Doc?

Trepanation (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 5 months ago | (#46513207)

"The most prominent folk theory for the benefits of self-trepanation is offered by Bart Huges, alternatively spelled Bart Hughes and sometimes called "Dr. Bart Hughes", although he is not a doctor but rather a librarian by trade. He was better known for his advocacy of drug use and trepanation and in 1965 he drilled a hole in his own head with a Black and Decker power drill as a publicity stunt. Hughes claims that trepanation increases "brain blood volume" and thereby enhances cerebral metabolism in a manner similar to cerebral vasodilators such as ginkgo biloba. No published results have supported these claims."

I knew someone who wrote many letters and emails to Black and Decker back in the 1990's requesting a recommendation for which drill bit to use for self-trepanation. It was an amusing joke. He got dozens of panicky replies and was contacted by their lawyers who informed him that they did not support him using their power tools for medical procedures. He finally did receive a reply from someone with a sense of humor though. I kept a copy of that email chain for years.. I wish I still had it, or knew where it was.

Re:Trepanation (1)

russotto (537200) | about 5 months ago | (#46513291)

Modern technology has solved this problem, there's a drill bit linkage [engadget.com] made for drilling a hole in your skull without damaging your brain.

Movie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513753)

There's an interesting/amusing movie about trepanation on Youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/user/trepanned

Be careful ... (1)

PPH (736903) | about 5 months ago | (#46513411)

... not to overclock or there might be consequences [untoldentertainment.com] .

Re:Be careful ... (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | about 5 months ago | (#46513559)

'Way back in my last year of high school, a buddy of mine's older brother dropped by our "common room", where senior students were allowed to relax during spare periods and after school. The guy was well known for his spectacularly comprehensive use of recreational drugs.

So this guy sees that a chess game is just ending, and challenges the winner (one of our top players, as it happened). He took forever to make his moves, but it became obvious before long that he had the game in the bag. When our classmate resigned, my buddy's stoner brother turned around to us, tapped his head, and said, "It might not work as fast as it used to, but it still works".

Unsafe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513471)

Of course it's unsafe. Improper use of e-stim can kill you and DIY bainhacking is basically e-stim applied to your head. Magnetically induced is safer than direct electricity, but only because it's weaker. Once you start using the really strong magnets, then you're in danger just by being around them. Two strong magnets can snap together and completely crush that part of your hand.

Even if the levels of everything was kept very low, you're still MESSING WITH YOUR BRAIN. You're using an external force to break pass your skull and directly interfere with your neurons and other molecules moving around your brain. Are the benefits worth the unknown risks? There's plenty of proven ways to hack your brain through food, lighting, sound, exercise, breathing techniques, and meditation.

Back up (2)

TheWingThing (686802) | about 5 months ago | (#46513477)

Better back up your firmware, just in case this makes you infirm.

Fleh (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 months ago | (#46513583)

Asdfbbb asdf asdf su lkjasld asdbbb bb blkasdf aj

Question of safety is moot (1)

John Pfeiffer (454131) | about 5 months ago | (#46513607)

The kind of people who actually would have the means, motivation, and wherewithal to do this probably face at least as much risk and danger in their everyday hobbies and activities. (Serious tinkerers and the like who play with electricity, fire, chemicals, metalworking tools, lasers, plasma cutters, etc. day in and day out.)

It's when the technology goes 'As Seen On TV' and Joe Six-Pack can buy himself an "Easy-peasy dew-it-yerself brain-zappery kit" that the question of safety truly becomes relevant.

Just you wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513667)

Wait until someone finds out how to trigger orgasms on demand, so you can masturbate with the click of a button - all of Slashdot will be performing DIY lobotomies.

I never asked for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513771)

Sounds like an easy way to scramble your brain and make mistakes like assuming you pushed the button on the soda machine for orange, when you actually asked for (and got) lemon-lime. Of course, you can always blame the maintenance man for that.

You don't support our policies? (1)

tlambert (566799) | about 5 months ago | (#46513811)

You don't support our policies?

Don't worry, I'm sure we can change your mind...

Why not LSD? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513815)

If you want to enhance creativity and reduce depression, why not just drop some acid instead?
Probably a lot safer and more likely to produce the desired results.

baement circuit hacker's version of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46513893)

Testing in Production

This quote says it all (1)

tgv (254536) | about 5 months ago | (#46514037)

Quote from the article: "Lee’s first plan was to use tDCS to learn German, but when he realized that language-learning would still be a huge time commitment, ..."
How serious can you take someone that thinks learning German is going to take a 10 minutes instead of 10 years because you strap a 9V battery to your head?

Re:This quote says it all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46514569)

that thinks learning German is going to take a 10 minutes instead of 10 years because you strap a 9V battery to your head

Fun fact: This is how we Germans actually do it.

(Trust me, I'm an AC.)

Failz0rs (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46514235)

from now on 08

I'm all for it (1)

GauteL (29207) | about 5 months ago | (#46514503)

As long as foc.us will also sell me a replacement brain if something goes wrong.

Hmmm... let me think. (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 5 months ago | (#46514517)

Is it safe to electrocute your own brain?

This is going to be a bit of a puzzler.

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