Market forces, the for-profit bias that imbues every aspect of health care in America, skew R&D towards solutions and products that are highly profitable. That’s one of the reasons I was so curious about tDCS. You can do it at home. It doesn’t cost a fortune. My initial curiosity was inspired by research papers that seemed to indicate the potential for cognitive enhancement, primarily memory and learning. Many papers later, I’m not so sure, but where it comes to tDCS and depression I’m much more confident. There does seem to be an overwhelming amount of both research and anecdotal evidence to support the use of tDCS in depression. If that were better known, perhaps someone like the woman featured in this NBC news clip would have had somewhere to turn when she was denied coverage for continuing TMS treatment for depression.
Eliza Strickland covered the HaloNeuro tDCS device. This clip shares my hopes about the Halo… that sports serves as a gateway until they can get established. IMO we need a device manufacturer with deep pockets who can satisfy the research and regulation requirements to make tDCS (or any other form of Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation – NIBS, that is effective) mainstream.
While the authorities dither, Halo will do its best to slip into the mainstream. And athletes are just the first customers targeted by this ambitious company. In South Carolina, a neurologist is currently testing the Halo with stroke patients to see if stimulating the motor cortex speeds up rehab. Chao envisions a whole range of Halo products offering consumers different kinds of mental boosts. “What if you want to learn Chinese and we stimulate the language center?” he says. “What if we stimulate the memory center and pair that with brain-training games?”
No mention of tDCS in his journey to find relief from severe depression, but some new to me and interesting information about treating his depression with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. Especially interesting is that a genome test recommended by his psychiatrist led to the awareness that many of the drugs typically used to treat depression would most likely be overwhelming to his system. Also that his insurer, Anthem Blue Cross (through the ACA, Obamacare) covered his TMS treatment. Links below to full article.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS, is a depression treatment that was approved by the FDA in 2008. It involves placing a magnetic coil on the patient’s head, and stimulating neurons in a specific part of the brain known to be underactive in depression (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex). Best of all, it has very few side effects: only some uncomfortable tapping on the head where treatment is applied. There are none of the standard side effects we’ve come to associate with medications.
There’s been a lot of attention to the Halo Neuroscience device, much of it around use by olympic-level athletes. Halo Sport is a VC-backed tDCS device that targets the Motor Cortex. We’ve covered it previously elsewhere on the blog.
For the first time, UNC School of Medicine scientists report using transcranial alternating current stimulation, or tACS, to target a specific kind of brain activity during sleep and strengthen memory in healthy people.
Anna Wexler is a Ph.D. candidate in the HASTS Program (History, Anthropology, Science, Technology, and Society) at MIT. Her dissertation focuses on the ethical, social and regulatory implications of consumer non-invasive brain stimulation. She is currently a 2015-2016 visiting scholar at the Center for Neuroscience and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2007, Anna graduated from MIT with two Bachelors’ of Science degrees, one in Brain and Cognitive Science and the other in Humanities and Science with a focus in Writing.
Caputron will be handling all Customer Support on GoFlow devices purchased through their site. At this time they have over 100 units in stock. If you’re not familiar with Caputron please check out my interview with founder Robin Azzam. Caputron has extended their discount to DIYtDCS readers for all products on their site, including the GoFlow. Use voucher code ‘diytdcs’ (without the quotation marks) for a generous discount.
Luciding is now taking pre-orders for the LucidCatcher. (Lots more on this site about lucid dreaming). Like much of the tDCS research, studies report conflicting results using tACS to induce lucid dreaming. Note that Foc.us has had a 40 Hz tACS mode built into their V2 device and also has a lucid dreaming kit. It’s been out long enough now that I would think that widespread success with using it to induce lucid dreams would have been widely reported. The LucidCatcher does come in a form factor optimized for sleeping. I’m curious to know more about the unusual electrode setup.
How does it work?
We typically see the dreams during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase. The device detects your REM and pushes mild electric impulses to the prefrontal cortex at a frequency of 40 Hz. It brings the logical brain back into service and makes you realize that you must be in a dream.
You’ll recognize the dream by millions of different signs that contradicts the reality because your consciousness evokes.
I was happy to lend Nathan my Thync. I knew he’d get to the bottom of what exactly was going on. Especially in the context of exploring TES, pulsed wave forms and some of the older technologies I’d recently been made aware of in my interview with Anna Wexler, I knew the Thync device would represent the state of the art. Jamie Tyler had arranged for me to have one, most likely in my capacity as a blogger and reporter of all things related to neurostimulation. I myself did not experience any significant effects using the Thync though I did find myself using it frequently – mostly the Calm vibe. Was there some effect lying just below consciousness that my body was reacting to? Certainly nothing like the experience Manoush Zomorodi had trying Thync for her podcast episode Forget Edibles: Getting High on Wearables (really a must hear).
Focus has posted a new page on their site which directs new users to show caution in their use of DIY tDCS. Focus goes so far as to caution people under the age of 18 not to try it.
If you are under 18 you should stop here. tDCS is not suitable for children and should not be used. This is because your brain is still developing and you don’t need to mess with its neuroplasticity.
The page goes on to list the known risks and a few benefits. Interestingly, it does not mention depression. I would have to imagine due to the possibility of crossing that nebulous regulatory line around ‘medical devices’.
Focus is, as I understand it, in the midst of fulfilling orders for their GoFlow device. You can read a full review of the GoFlow on SpeakWisdom, the (primarily) tDCS-related site authored by Dr. Brent Williams. Go Flow Pro, Nice Brain Stimulation Kit!
Memory has always fascinated me and it’s thrilling to be alive at a time when breakthroughs in our understanding of memory are happening so frequently. I had never heard of Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory before catching a recent (this will slip behind a paywall in a week or so) This American Life episode that features Jill Price discussing how having the extremely rare condition, HSAM for short, has left her ruminating over her husbands passing for years. (More about Jill Price from 60 Minutes Australia here).
As someone who has journaled for most of my adult life the idea of being able to recall every single day in vivid detail seemed thrilling and I wondered if Jill Price’s experience was the norm among people with HSAM. That led to these 60 Minute pieces. The first two are from 2010.
After the show aired, hundreds of people contacted Dr. James McGaugh including the family of 10 year old Jake Hausler who also has HSAM. Scientists at Washington University are working with Jake to try to understand how it’s done.
And finally, this NOVA piece on memory has an update on the Jake Hausler research, and also delves into a wide variety of cutting edge memory research.