You may have noticed that I’ve not been posting as much to the blog lately. The blog is already so full of useful content for anyone looking into tDCS that I’m inclined to only post significant information that would move our current understanding of tDCS and neurostimulation forward. This article/paper describing a new technique using ‘HD tACS’ to synchronize (brainwaves) parts of the brain definitely looks intriguing and has implications for anyone paying attention to DIY neurostimulation. Very early, but very interesting.
Prof Rob Reinhart. Photo by Cydney Scott for Boston University Photography
“These (medial frontal cortex & lateral prefrontal cortex) are maybe the two most fundamental brain areas involved with executive function and self-control,” says Reinhart, who used a new technique called high-definition transcranial alternating current stimulation (HD-tACS) to stimulate these two regions with electrodes placed on a participant’s scalp. Using this new technology, he found that improving the synchronization of brain waves, or oscillations, between these two regions enhanced their communication with each other, allowing participants to perform better on laboratory tasks related to learning and self-control. Conversely, de-synchronizing or disrupting the timing of the brain waves in these regions impaired participants’ ability to learn and control their behavior, an effect that Reinhart could quickly fix by changing how he delivered the electrical stimulation. The work, published October 9, 2017, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), suggests that electrical stimulation can quickly—and reversibly—increase or decrease executive function in healthy people and change their behavior.
Here’s the paper (paywall): Disruption and rescue of interareal theta phase coupling and adaptive behavior. The supplemental pdf. describes the equipment used in the experiment.
High definition transcranial alternating current stimulation ( HD- tACS ). The alternating current stimulation was administered noninvasively using an MxN9-3 channel high definition transcranial electrical current stimulator from Soterix Medical (New York, NY). Eight sintered Ag/AgCl electrodes were attached to high-definition plastic holders, filled with conductive gel, and embedded in the Biosemi EEG cap. HD-tACS electrode placement was guided by current-flow modeling using HD- Explore and HD-Targets (Soterix Medical), with the goal of targeting the MFC and lPFC to facilitate the synchronization of neural activity between these regions (the in phase protocol ) or disrupt the signals being conveyed between the MFC and lPFC (the antiphase protocol ).
Listen to Bob McDonald discuss HD tACS with Prof Rob Reinhart on the always interesting Quirks and Quarks.
In the spirit of fairness, I’m posting this musician’s experience of using the Halo Sport for guitar training. Unlike Mario and his piano experience, this fellow, TomboLP, ultimately found no added benefit, though in earlier videos (this is the part 5 of 5) he was excited by what he assumed were positive results.
This is the last video in my test of the Halo Sport. As I didn’t reach the goals I set for myself in the time allotted and feel that there were no gains that couldn’t be otherwise explained by practice, I have now returned the headset. Even though the product didn’t work out for me, I will say that the return process was very straightforward and hassle-free.
Robin at Caputron dropped me a note to let me know they are now carrying the Foc.us V2 device. Purchased alone, it does not include electrodes, but there is an option to add their ‘starter kit’ which includes the Caputron Universal Strap, Caputron Banana Adapter Cable for Focus Device, and Choice of 2×2 or 3×3 Electrodes. (Use diytdcs at checkout for generous discount). Foc.us V2 Device at Caputron.
If what attracted you to tDCS is all the news (and hype) around the possible benefits, cognitive and otherwise, that tDCS may provide, then I recommend the Foc.us V2 device. It’s had a thorough going over, and apart from the (then included) electrodes, proved to be an amazing piece of gear. tDCS, tACS, tRNS, tPCS in a single sub $300 unit with a software interface!
Banana Plug for Foc.us
Elsewhere on the blog I’ve stated that I recommend the ActivaDose ll device. This is an FDA approved device – it’s NOT FDA approved for tDCS – it’s approval is for use as an Iontophoresis device. The point is that the electronics and workmanship have attained an FDA level of approval. It’s simple and straightforward to use.
The only reason I haven’t recommended other tDCS devices on the market is because I’m not in a position to analyze the quality of their workmanship myself. I recommend the Activadose ll because people looking to experiment with tDCS for the treatment of depression can’t be assumed to have a toolset for determining the mechanical workmanship of an electrical device they’re going to be attaching to their heads! The Activadose ll, an FDA approved device, at least assures the buyer the device itself is of high quality. It’s also more likely to retain some resale value in the event someone decides later on to sell it.
I recommend the Foc.us V2 because of it’s variety of stimulation modes. Folks who are sophisticated enough about neurostimulation to be experimenting with cognitive enhancement would obviously benefit from having the option to test other forms of stimulation that frequently come up in the scientific literature.
When you use code diytdcs at checkout at Caputron you get a discount, and I get a small commission.
I do hope to understand this better. Is it just that he was so impressed with his own Halo Sport experience that he was motivated to tell the world about it? Is it that Mario is a YouTube content creator and knew this would be compelling content? I will update the post as I learn more.
And here is the video Mario made in November, 2016 where he describes the impact using Halo Sport had on his piano playing.
Hey Mario, If you’re reading this drop me a line, I’d like to talk to you.
Insurers are starting to cover TMS for depression (after determining that SSRIs or other medications aren’t working for the patient). A full course, 24-36 treatments, of TMS can cost well over $10k. Though this is purely conjecture on my part, one way tDCS might make it into the mainstream is as a method to ‘top up’ post-TMS treatment as effects begin to fade.
Published on Jun 19, 2017 | YouTubeUCLA
As the number of people suffering from depression rises, doctors are looking for new, more targeted ways to treat it. One approach used by doctors at UCLA and a handful of other centers nationwide is to beam magnetic pulses deep into patients’ brains, a therapy known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). The therapy is time-consuming, and only a few hospitals or clinics offer it, but its ability to work in a fundamentally different way from medications is also what makes it so promising for people not helped by drugs.
Wow! No less than Hank Green ( of the Vlog Brothers) covering tDCS on his SciShow Psych! He sounds a little skeptical! So we have that in common. I pretty much agree with Hank’s perspective, just a couple of thoughts I’d like to share.
Most companies (but not all) know better than to make claims about tDCS. They know they have to be careful making claims of benefits. So where you see a company making a claim, they are most likely basing the claim on legit science. But are the benefits replicable in your situation? Hank refers to the (science) literature as ‘messy’ and he’s right, with different labs coming to opposite conclusions using basically the same experiment protocols.
Hank characterizes the basic function of tDCS as being a training session for neurons. Over time, with repeated stimulation, those neurons will start to fire more. While this is a legitimate description of the approach some research takes, I think a better way to think of it is that tDCS makes it easier for neurons that are already inclined to fire, to do so. As in- you’re focused on a “Where’s Waldo” task, and with the proper stimulation, the task is easier to do, because the targeted neurons have less resistance to firing.
Mike Weisend – Treating the Brain from the Outside We met Michael Weisend back in podcast #4 (March 2013!) and have been following along ever since. In this interview Mike discusses what he’s been up to at Rio Grande Neurosciences. What caught my ear especially were the discussion around ‘closed-loop TES’, where EEG information informs when and where to stimulate with TES. Also, his discussion of personalized disposable bio-degradeable electrodes was interesting. Mike closes the interview with an invitation to anyone knowing how to engineer an ‘EEG amplifier’ that would allow for the separation of EEG data and active TES stimulation, to contact him. (mike.weisend [theAtSign] riograndeneurosciences.com). Kudos to Richard Jacobs for an interesting interview.
In the third section of his talk (around 30 minute mark), Dr. McConnell discusses an experiment they are working on that uses EEG to monitor sleep, and according to their protocol, turn on a TES device (tACS-like) in order to induce slow wave EEG activity. The practical application is improved memory consolidation in Alzheimer’s patients. Very interesting!
Published on May 14, 2017 Neurology Grand Rounds 3 May 2017 – Transcranial Electrical Stimulation: A Stimulating Discussion of Current Research.
Brice McConnell, MD, PhD
University of Colorado
Finnish company Sooma manufactures and supports a tDCS device for the treatment of depression (in Europe). They recently added clearance to treat pain in Canada, and I would assume, are aggressively working towards clearing their device for the treatment of depression in Canada and the U.S.
I would recommend muting the sound (captioned so not necessary) in these next two.
If you follow the blog you’ll know I’m not savvy enough in the ways of electronics to know a well-constructed DIY circuit when I see it. I’ve generally depended on the Reddit crowd to sort through the pros and cons of DIY tDCS circuit design. Now that there are a handful of professionally developed and readily available devices on the market, I’m not seeing as many DIY projects, but here’s a couple that popped up on Youtube in the last week or so.
The paper, Gamma frequency entrainment attenuates amyloid load and modifies microglia makes clear that the light-flickering affected the visual cortex, which makes sense, as the light reaches the brain through the eyes. But wait, thinks I, what about tACS (transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation)… haven’t I seen numerous papers implying the ability to ‘entrain’ brain waves with tACS? What if you could increase 40hz Gamma in other parts of the brain? (Google Scholar Search: transcranial alternating, entrain, gamma)
But then I discovered that Radiolab just covered this exact story and it’s totally amazing! Really a must listen. So fun to hear the researcher’s amazement at this accidental (sort of) discovery!
So what’s with the photo of the Foc.us v2 device set up for a 40hz tACS session? Just that…
More about The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT