DIY tDCS Start Here


New to DIYtDCS? This is the ‘start here’ collection of articles and posts.

  1. Become a tDCS expert in only a few hours! Davis tDCS Summit 9/5/13.
  2. Marom Bikson & Peter Toshev ‘Your Electric Pharmacy‘ (excellent overview/intro).
  3. Marom Bikson Presentation on State of the Art tDCS 8/13.
  4. My podcast interviews – deep dives into tDCS with key players (iTunes link)
  5. tDCS SubReddit is where the action is. Now with tDCS FAQ!
  6. An ‘Open tDCS’ project.
  7. johnboy6785’s Off-the-shelf tDCS setup with links (Reddit)
  8. Dr. Brent Williams’ DIY device and protocol.
  9. Zap your brain into the zone: Fast track to pure focus
  10. Better Living Through Electrochemistry
  11. Clinical tDCS trials seek volunteers. All. Search. (Example: “tDCS AND Los Angeles”)
  12. Go deep! ATA at Brmlab continues to develop his tDCS page.
  13. Neuroscience: Brain buzz Nature Magazine
  14. DLPFC / F3 Locator (you’ll need a tape measure with Centimeters)
  15. Searchable database of tDCS articles from
  16. 10–20 international system

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Brain Hackers Beware: Scientist Says tDCS Has No Effect – IEEE Spectrum

Jared Horvath, a neuroscientist at the University of Melbourne, in Australia, looked at every study of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) that reported an impact on cognitive and behavioral activities such as problem solving, learning, mental arithmetic, vision tasks, and memory games. He then excluded results that had not been replicated by other researchers, as well as any experiments lacking a “sham condition” control group—where participants were connected to the device but didn’t receive current. While many of the more than 200 individual studies that remained claimed to have found significant effects, those effects disappeared after Horvath’s number crunching. “When I pulled out the 20 studies looking at tDCS and working memory, for example, they all found something, but they all found something different,” says Horvath.

One study may have found an effect on accuracy, another on reaction time, and a third on response confidence. “But when I brought them together, they just canceled each other out, and I was left with nothing,” he says. It was a similar story for more than 100 other cognitive and behavioral outcomes. “It looks like the evidence says tDCS is not doing anything.”

via Brain Hackers Beware: Scientist Says tDCS Has No Effect – IEEE Spectrum.

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Signal to Noise — A Summary Of NYC NeuroModulation 2015

Second, there’s an emerging picture of how different forms of electric brain stimulation like tDCS, tACS, and tRNS work. An emerging consensus among both mechanistic and clinical researchers seems to be that the major effect of tDCS (and to a lesser extent tRNS) is to boost plasticity in stimulated regions while tACS exhibits weak to nonexistent effects on plasticity but provides a means to interact with ongoing brain rhythms. Secondly, there’s increasing acknowledgement that even when the spatial current spread is restricted; stimulation induces very significant “network effects” through feed-forwward and feedback connections between brain regions; these effects (as well as individual variability) might explain why observing consistent physiological effects of tDCS is difficult. Finally, an increasingly popular area of interest seems to be combining tDCS with some kind of cognitive training or exercise, based on the hypothesis that tDCS-induced plasticity enhancement will be synergistic with these regiments.

via Signal to Noise — A Summary Of NYC NeuroModulation 2015.

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Our Sleep Problem and What to Do About It | Newsweek

Meanwhile, the military is going straight to the brain in search of wakefulness: It is researching a process called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which more or less zaps the brain with electricity, in the hope that it will keep soldiers constantly at the ready. Andy McKinley, an in-house researcher for the U.S. Air Force, helped publish a study on the phenomenon. “When we kept people up for 30 hours, we found that tDCS improved their vigilance performance twice as much as caffeine, and the effect lasted twice as long. Caffeine lasted two hours, tDCS lasted about six.” For the sleep-unhappy public, unregulated and unapproved tDCS-applying devices have already found their way onto civilian markets.

via Our Sleep Problem and What to Do About It.

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You Asked, We Answered: Thync Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How are Thync Vibes tested?

A: Thync Vibes are the culmination of testing and developing of our technology on thousands of people in more than 150 studies we have conducted. When evaluating our Vibes, we monitor biometric signals, psychophysiological variables, and conduct psychometric evaluations. For example, we capture, record, and analyze data such as heart rate, heart rate variability, galvanic skin response, pupil diameter, and EEG to quantify how Vibes influence both the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system.

Our studies also consider the placebo effect by incorporating sham groups in blind tests to assess the effectiveness of a particular stimulus protocols. We use sham protocols that mimic the skin sensations of Vibes and give users the same control interface in our app, but they are designed to be non-functional in increasing energy or enhancing calmness. Our standards for developing reliable and significant Vibe effects are always defined by comparison to sham studies.

Q: Does the Thync device produce long-term changes in brain function or neuroplasticity?

A: Thync scientists have investigated long-term effects with both in-house and sponsored academic research studies and have not identified any maladaptive long-term effects.

Q: Are you planning to add additional Vibes?

A: We are planning to expand our Vibes in the future. Stay tuned.

via You Asked, We Answered: Thync Frequently Asked Questions.

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Electrical Stimulation ‘Tunes’ Visual Attention Using Long-Term Memory | Lab Manager

“These new findings provide evidence that long-term memory representations can also underlie our ability to rapidly configure attention to focus on certain objects, and that long-term memory performance can be sharply accelerated using electrical stimulation.”

Researchers have long known that attention could be tuned, like a radio dial, to hone in on specific features, but how and where in the brain this tuning occurs has remained an open question.

By passing very weak electrical current through the brains of healthy volunteers using a process called transcranial direct-current stimulation, researchers were able to cause the volunteers to much more quickly find target objects embedded in arrays of distracting objects. The study showed that after 20 minutes of passing safe levels of weak electrical current through electrodes placed on the head, the volunteers were able to more effectively focus attention on the searched-for targets, with dramatic increases in speed.

via Electrical Stimulation ‘Tunes’ Visual Attention Using Long-Term Memory | Lab Manager.

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‘Brain zapping’: Veterans say experimental PTSD treatment has changed their lives – The Washington Post

TMS, not tDCS but fascinating that they’re having success treating PTSD and autism.

“Right now it’s like we’re selling snake oil,” acknowledges Kevin Murphy, a pediatric radiologist and oncologist running the PTSD and autism trials. “It’s hard to believe, and if I hadn’t had my own son treated, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Murphy says that after three to four months of magnetic therapy, his 10-year-old, who has Asperger’s syndrome, showed major improvement, to the point of no longer needing a constant one-on-one school aide, reading at a high school level and acing spelling tests when before he could barely write.

“I have colleagues saying, ‘What’s the mechanism?’ ” Murphy says after his talk at the Oakley conference. “I say I don’t know. I’m not at the point where I can say I understand these things.”

It’s like magic, then?

Yes, he says, then mentions a medieval cure. “It’s like gold dust on the belly.”

via ‘Brain zapping’: Veterans say experimental PTSD treatment has changed their lives – The Washington Post.

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I tried a brain-altering wearable that allows users to change their moods on demand – Quartz

thync-calm-kit-zaps-your-brain-into-feeling-calm-or-energeticThe 20 minutes are up sooner than I imagined. I peel the device from my forehead, remove the underlying disposable electrodes, replace my glasses. The difference, I must admit, is palpable: Everything seems more finely etched, crisper. I notice more details in the world around me, and the sense of dullness that three days spent listening to press pitches from moribund industry giants has draped over my brain seems to have been peeled away. Andrew’s experience is less dramatic—he says he definitely feels more relaxed, but you can’t get less anxiety than zero. The up elevator, meanwhile, doesn’t have the same ceiling.
Goldwasser is back. “How is it?” he asks. I tell him that I feel “overclocked,” and he laughs.

via I tried a brain-altering wearable that allows users to change their moods on demand – Quartz.

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Major Study Finds No tDCS Benefit To Fluid Intelligence Training

Update: Aldis wrote in a comment:

To clarify the takeaway message: we weren’t actually training fluid intelligence. Fluid intelligence has been shown to rely on fundamental cognitive abilities like working memory and attention, and the games were designed to train those underlying abilities. Training on fluid intelligence tasks would be like teaching to the test.

In a talk, “Can HD-tDCS Enhance Cognitive Training”, Aldis Sipolins describes a ‘wildly ambitious’ cognitive training study called the INSIGHT Project. Funded by IARPA, the study combined rigorous exercise and HD-tDCS-enhanced cognitive training in an attempt to increase ‘fluid intelligence’. 518 subjects, half of whom underwent pre and post fMRI scanning, undertook a 16 week course of combined exercise and brain training. The results? Anodal HD-tDCS improved performance on 3 of 6 brain-training video games but had no effect on transfer, i.e. the improvements did not transfer to general intelligence. As a result tDCS will not be a part of the study moving forward.

  • Partnered with Aptima to create a suite of six brain-training games. Games were ‘adaptive’, i.e they increased in difficulty as the subject’s performance improved.
  • Montage used was  2 x 2 (4 electrodes) designed by Soterix to affect DLPFC (dorsalateral prefrontal cortex). Dosage was 2mA for 30 minutes. Training started once current ramped up.
  • BOMAT (bochumer matrices) test was used to determine whether enhanced game performance transferred to fluid intelligence.
  • A future study on the INSIGHT Project will include a Mindfulness meditation segment and include nutritional supplements (brain shake).

In a recent Reddit thread when asked what he’d do differently, Aldis Sipolins said:

1) Include a cathodal group, with the hope that it impairs performance. Vince Clark suggested that impairing performance during cognitive training may have led to greater transfer. Kind of like how strapping weights to your body when you train makes it easier to move once you take them off.

2) Include a tDCS group that doesn’t complete the exercise intervention. It’s possible that exercise masked the effects of tDCS.

I would personally like to thank Aldis Sipolins, Art Kramer, and everyone at the Lifelong Brain and Cognition lab for some excellent science!


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Depression treatment technique uses new helmet therapy | BBC News

Thanks to reader Jerico for alerting me to this. Transcranial Pulsating Electro Magnetic Fields therapy is new to me. It does not seem to be experiencing anywhere near the level of research activity that is going on around tDCS. Some of the research I’m finding dates from 2001 (though the BBC article the quote is from and linked to below is from 2014).  But just to have it on our radar, and because the helmet looks so cool…

“The helmet is amazing,” said Annemette Ovlisen, a graphic artist who suffered recurrent depression for 16 years and a participant in the Hillerod trials.
It’s like the fog lifts. It was like somebody hit the reset button.”The device contains seven coils that deliver a dose of Transcranial Pulsating Electro Magnetic Fields (T-PEMF) to brain tissues.The pulses are so minute that the patient cannot detect any sensation, and the only side effect so far is occasional “tiny” nausea that immediately disappears after treatment.
Prof Steen Dissing, of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Health Sciences is the helmet’s principal architect.
He said: “The device mimics electrical fields in the brain, and triggers the body’s own healing mechanism.”
The pulses activate capillaries in the brain, which form new blood vessels and secrete growth hormones.


I’ts like somebody hit the reset button and I was back to normal.

PEMFhelmetDissingPEMFhelmetInUsevia BBC News – Depression treatment technique uses new helmet therapy.

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ApeX Type A Device

A device I’ve not seen previously. Looks to be simple to understand and well-crafted. Will have to wait for the Redditors to take it apart to know what’s inside. Looks like a one man operation, Claude Barreto. Reasonably priced as well. Interesting that you have to agree to the Terms and Conditions of Sale before you can get to the order form. I’m intrigued by the dual electrode option. That one could apply tDCS to two locations simultaneously is, I think, new for any of the DIY-level tDCS devices. [I am not affiliated with this or any other device mentioned on the site.]

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