Robin Azzam of Caputron Medical – DIYtDCS Podcast #5

[Did you just pop back for the Caputron promo code? It’s ‘diytdcs’ without the quotes.]

Robin Azzam is the founder of Caputron Medical. While pursuing a Masters in medical engineering at New York City College, Robin realized there was a need in the research community for a place to source brain stimulation supplies. Shortly after leaving a position in product development at Soterix Medical, Robin and a few friends set up Caputron with the intention of becoming a ‘one stop shop’ for all things related to brain stimulation. His time at Soterix, working alongside Marom Bikson, led to the sort of relationships that allowed Caputron to become a distributor for high-end products like Soterix HD-tDCS and Neurosoft’s TMS devices. But Caputron also began to carry a large selection of electrodes, cables, straps and stimulation-related accessories. Caputron is now developing their own products, and hope to have their own research-grade home DC current device on the market by the end of the year. They recently began selling their mindGear device which I will cover in detail in the near future.caputron-ionto-starter-kit-features

What DIYtDCS readers will likely find most exciting is Caputron’s ActivaDose II Starter Kit. This is the FDA cleared iontopheresis device widely used ‘off label’ for tDCS. It is the device used by two of my previous podcast guests, Dr. Jim Fugedy (for treating depression) and, (at the time) Michael Weisend for research. But Caputron has customized the included accessory package making it tDCS-friendly right out of the box.

In the three years I’ve been running the blog I’ve not previously felt comfortable recommending any specific tDCS device (mostly due to my own ignorance of electronics). I’ve either had doubts about the device itself or not had confidence in the vendor’s customer support. But based on my own experience with the ActivaDose products, the fact that it’s an ‘FDA cleared’ device, and also that it’s coming from Robin and his team, I feel, finally, that we have a product/vendor you could recommend your Mother to. (Assuming she does her homework!)

To that extent, I asked for, and Robin agreed to, a discount on all Caputron products for DIYtDCS readers. Simply plug the promo code ‘diytdcs’ (without quotation marks) into the Voucher window at checkout for a generous discount.

Here’s our interview. Your feedback is welcomed!

activadose-product-page

Note: The ActivaDose II has a max output of 4.0 mA which, as you know if you’ve done your homework, is twice as much as is typically used in tDCS research.

FDA Public Workshop – Neurodiagnostics and Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Medical Devices Workshop, November 19-20, 2015

http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/NewsEvents/WorkshopsConferences/ucm458018.htm

The focus of the second day of the workshop will be non-invasive brain stimulation medical devices, which are medical devices that are intended to improve, affect, or otherwise modify the cognitive function of a normal individual (i.e., without a treatment objective) by means of non-invasive electrical or electromagnetic stimulation to the head. The purpose of this workshop is to obtain public input and feedback on scientific, clinical, and regulatory considerations associated with medical devices for assessing and influencing cognitive function.

“Unfocus” on foc.us study (was…) Widely available brain training device could impair memory: study

[Update 9/3] Because the tweets just keep on tweeting!

Study author Laura Steenbergen:

We performed this study in August/September 2014, which was before the V2 headset or software were available or even announced.

The study states:

In this study, we tested whether the commercial transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) headset foc.us improves cognitive performance, as advertised in the media.

In fact, at the time the study took place, using the Focus v1 device, the (June 25, 2014) website stated:

Stronger, faster, quicker

Excite your prefrontal cortex and get the edge in online gaming

 

[Update 8/30 Getting a little bit into the weeds here, but having put some time/thought into this r/tDCS thread reply I thought to post it here too to further clarify my issues with the study.]

I’m not sure why you call it ‘the standard foc.us montage’. The v1 montage was a bad choice, they recognized that and moved on. What would you say about the foc.us product as presented on their website now? Fregni’s study isn’t what I’d hope for in a study either. Maybe this ‘Unfocus’ study should have confirmed Fregni’s results using their testing protocol with a ‘medical tDCS apparatus’ before finding that the foc.us v1 device ‘impairs working memory’. In the study, they state:

In this study, we tested whether the commercial transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) headset foc.us improves cognitive performance, as advertised in the media.

But in another interview (translated) she states:

Reuning: The company that sells this device, thus claiming that it improves working memory. Is that correct? Steenbergen: Well, at least for the new version of the device they advertise on their website. The version we tested is intended to improve performance in computer games, according to the manufacturer.

Did foc.us ever state that the v1 ‘improved working memory’? I don’t think so. Here’s what I think this whole study is really about (again, translated from the same article):

…Of the medical equipment we know that they are safe. We know which regulations need to be followed if one wants to use them. But for the non-prescription devices there are no such provisions.

And yes, totally agree that all sorts of claims are being made. It’s a challenge to parse out good science, especially now that VC and DARPA money are coming into brain stimulation. Not to mention claims made by manufacturers of devices. But all that keeps it interesting and fun actually.

I would have been completely okay with this just being another bad tDCS study if it wasn’t so blatant a hatchet job on foc.us and the diy community in general.

[Update 8/28]

“Unfocus” on foc.us study – Our Response
For the record – the original foc.us gamer was tested and CE certified by an independent UK based Notified Body to standards EN60601-1:2006 and EN60601-2-10:2000.
It was the first CE certified consumer tDCS device. As far as we are aware, foc.us remains the only CE certified consumer tDCS device available today.

We welcome researchers who want to test our claims, especially independent 3rd parties who do it without telling us. But we find ourselves disagreeing with the facts presented and thus conclusions of this report.

Michael Oxley
foc.us co-founder

Source: “Unfocus” on foc.us study – Our Response

[Update 8/19] Noticed that Thync’s Jamie Tyler had this to say…

[Update 8/20] Have been in touch with study author Laura Steenbergen who cleared up my question about which version of the Foc.us device/software was used in the study:

We performed this study in August/September 2014, which was before the V2 headset or software were available or even announced. Hence, we used the software that belonged with the V1 apparatus (which by then was not even available for android yet ;)). Publication of scientific data is a long process, which is one of the reasons we repeatedly state that these findings only apply to V1 (we have no knowledge about V2). Confusingly, some media websites post a picture of the V2 foc.us with our findings… But that is beyond my control… I hope this clarifies the situation.. Best, Laura Steenbergen

Of course in the context of there only being one Focus device at the time, their use of the term ‘device’ would imply the entire contents of the box they received. There were no v2 headsets at the time they conducted the research. It’s my awareness of subsequent product developments that confused my initial impression. That plus the fact that the media are denigrating Focus for a product that doesn’t exist based on research that happened over a year ago.

Confused about this study… They tested the Foc.us v1 headset with the Foc.us v2 software. Then declare the device “…cannot be regarded as an alternative to CE-certified tDCS devices, the use of which has been demonstrated to be successful in promoting WM.” But the v1 headset has been controversial since Foc.us first released it! And having v2 of the app/software would imply that they made the choice not to use the newer headset (which follows a more common montage protocol). Anyway… it got published, and we’re talking about it and the buzz gremlins put their spin on it and spread it hither and yon.

In the current study, psychologists from the Netherlands worked with 24 healthy participants, attaching tDCS electrodes to their foreheads as recommended for stimulating the cortex. They used a commercial tDCS headset called “foc. us” that offers gamified and non-gamified stimulation and claims it can increase athletic endurance in addition to cognition. Participants visited the laboratory two times and were each given — unbeknownst to them — both a real stimulation session and a placebo-like service.

Source: Widely available brain training device could impair memory: study – Yahoo News
Reddit discussion: https://www.reddit.com/r/tDCS/comments/3hbe3s/impaired_memory_with_focus/
Paper: “Unfocus” on foc.us : commercial tDCS headset impairs working memory

Any other type of sensory stimulation (incl different sham) could have produced same weak effects on WM #junk #tDCS http://nws.mx/1gU30dI
@sciencelaer thx read it yesterday – lights, tones, etc really could have produced same minimal WM differences – so much junk tDCS research

Bring On The Neuro-Revolution!

Not tDCS, but fascinating. Greg Gage @phineasgreg of BackyardBrains demonstrating a device that allowed one person to control the arm of another. I especially like his closing remarks,

This is what’s happening all across the world, electrophysiology, bring on the neuro-revolution.

See Also: Are you thinking what I’m thinking? The rise of mind control
The neuro-revolution is coming: Greg Gage’s neuroscience kits put research in the hands of the curious

 

Making people smarter through brain stimulation | UNM

Following up on Vincent Clark at UNM, working on the IARPA-funded SHARP project.

The current researchers use has a few effects including increasing chemicals in the brain that help humans encode memories. As those chemicals increase, people find it easier to learn new things. Another effect involves the applied current, which seems to alter attention so that people can attend to what they’re doing better; they can pay more attention to the task at hand.

When the researchers gave people tDCS, their score went up faster. An examination of the difference before and after shows a score that goes up about 14 percent without tDCS. With full tDCS, the score goes up about 27 percent. If they wait an hour and test again, and compare no tDCS with full tDCS, it goes up even more.

Source: Making people smarter through brain stimulation

The innovators: the cloth cap that treats the brain | The Guardian

Neuroelectrics founder Ana Maiques . Photograph: Handout

Neuroelectrics founder Ana Maiques . Photograph: Handout

Treatment is achieved by sending a low electrical current to the area of the brain in question via the electrodes for about 20 minutes, repeated over a number of sessions. Apart from a 15-second itching sensation, Maiques says that patients do not feel anything during the process. By exciting the neurons with the current, it has a positive effect on the rehabilitation of people with strokes in combination with physical therapy.

“You are artificially helping the brain to get more excited and more dynamic doing that task,” Maiques says. “Studies show that if you do this in combination with other therapies you have more of an effect. In a sense you are teaching the brain to behave in a different way. And then it is learning that behaviour.”

Source: The innovators: the cloth cap that treats the brain
Naysayer follow-up: A cap that treats depression? Check the science before getting excited

Solid Advice on Selecting foc.us tDCS and Accessories | SpeakWisdom

Brent Williams of SpeakWisdom shares his thoughts on the Foc.us v2 device along with his recommendations for electrodes.

The V2 Brain Stimulation Device

First, you will need a foc.us V2 stimulator device. They currently sell for about $199 and with current firmware are far beyond any of their competition in terms of versatility, capability, portability, etc. I won’t take time here to list all of the MANY things the V2 can do, but suffice it to say that manufacturers of “professional grade” tDCS, tACS, etc. equipment are probably nervous about where foc.us is driving prices and capabilities! In my opinion, the V2 is THE brain stimulation device to buy at its price point.

Source: Solid Advice on Selecting foc.us tDCS and Accessories

What is tDCS? – Improving Visual Memory | Neural Engineering Group

[Note (updated 8/9/15): Alex is using a research version of the mindGear device. The device as available to the general public does not include a tDCS program.]

The folks at the Neural Engineering Group (associated with Marom Bikson’s NY City College Neural Engineering Lab) are producing a series on tDCS. Here is their first episode!

My Notes: Could you force an action potential with tDCS? (TMS does)
Visual memory improved by non-invasive brain stimulation (paywall)
Richard P. Chi, Felipe Fregni, Allan W. Snyder
Dosage: mA x time, i.e. 30 mA minutes could be 1.5mA for 20 minutes.
Memory improvement montage: Anode between T8 & FT8, Cathode between T7 & FT7