HD tACS to Synchronize Medial Frontal Cortex & Lateral Prefrontal Cortex Leads to Improved Executive Function

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

Full story:  “Turbo Charge” for Your Brain? by By Barbara Moran

“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.

Gamma Waves Enhance the Brain’s Immune System to Treat Mice with Alzheimer’s disease.

Foc.us v2 40hz tACS

I was first alerted to the story from a December 7 article in the Guardian, “Strobe lighting provides a flicker of hope in the fight against Alzheimer’s“. Researchers from the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT, working with (let’s call them) ‘Alzehiemer’s mice’, had discovered that flashing a light at 40hz (on-off at 40 times per second) increased gamma wave oscillations in the brain which led to the reduction of Amyloid beta (think, plaque) through the activation of microglia ‘clean-up’ immune cells. Here, let them explain it!

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

Is e-meditation wave of the future? | MUSC News

Full article: Is e-meditation wave of the future?

Neuroscience doctoral student Bashar W. Badran is exploring the Use of tDCS to enhance Mindfulness Meditation (E-Meditation)
MUSC Research Assistant Caroline Summer is in background, demonstrating the tDCS device.
Photo by Sarah Pack

Badran, who used two different mindfulness scales and mood rating scales on 15 participants in a double-blind study, found that feelings of calmness increased almost 2.5 times in the group receiving active tDCS-paired meditation compared to the placebo. Individuals receiving the sham stimulation had just a 5 percent increase in calmness rating.

 

Paper (Paywall): A Double-Blind Study Exploring the Use of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) to Potentially Enhance Mindfulness Meditation (E-Meditation)

Treating Depression With tDCS | IEEE Spectrum

Excellent article on the state of prescribed tDCS for depression.
Full article: Treating Depression With tDCS: Startup Ybrain Aims for the Mainstream

In South Korea, Ybrain is betting that these benefits and its slick consumer-friendly design will speed adoption of its device. “It’s designed for home use,” says Ybrain CEO Lee, “so physician can electronically prescribe the device and patients can bring it to their homes.”

Do DIY Brain-Booster Devices Work? | Scientific America

Excellent article traces the rise in tDCS interest. Includes many of the key players and links to important research papers. Do DIY Brain-Booster Devices Work?

Zapping the brain really does seem to improve depression | New Scientist

Analysing these high-standard studies revealed that tDCS seems to reliably improve the symptoms of depression, addiction and craving, and fibromyalgia. It also uncovered that the technique does not work for tinnitus, and that the evidence for using tDCS for stroke rehabilitation was not as strong as many had thought.

Full article: Zapping the brain really does seem to improve depression

Full Paper: Evidence-based guidelines on the therapeutic use of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)

 

Medical Batteries – The History of Electrotherapy

Update 2/17/17 BBC The strange Victorian fashion of self-electrification
tdcslindstroms-electro-medical-apparatus

If you’ve been following along very closely you may recall that podcast episode #6 guest Anna Wexler mentioned in passing that she had been researching Ye Olde practice of therapeutically applying current to various parts of the body. Well, an early version of a new paper of hers landed the other day: Recurrent themes in the history of the home use of electrical stimulation: Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and the medical battery (1870–1920). It’s behind a paywall but here are some highlights.

  • Although the home use of tDCS is often referred to as a novel phenomenon, in reality the late nineteenth and early twentieth century saw a proliferation of electrical stimulation devices for home use.
  • In particular, the use of a portable electrotherapy device known as the “medical battery” bears a number of striking similarities to the modern-day use of tDCS.
  • Many features related to the home use tDCS—a do-it-yourself movement, anti-medical establishment themes, conflicts between lay and professional usage—are a repetition of themes that occurred a century ago with regard to the medical battery.
  • A number of features seem to be unique to the present, such as the dominant discourse about risk and safety, the division between cranial and non-cranial stimulation, and utilization for cognitive enhancement purposes.
  • Viewed in historical context, the contemporary use of electrical stimulation at home is not unusual, but rather the latest wave in a series of ongoing attempts by lay individuals to utilize electricity for therapeutic purposes.

Lots of ‘medical battery’ patents here.
And a ton of wonderful images to be found in books in Google’s digitized library.
Most of these came from a single book!

 

I intentionally electrocuted my brain. Here’s why… | BBC

BBC Three's Nick Arnold takes the Focus Sports for a test drive.

BBC Three’s Nick Arnold takes the Focus Sports for a test drive.

I contacted a few people using tDCS to cure their depression via social media. Mario, 32 from Mexico, told me it was working for him.

“I think it is great. You can see a lot of improvements in your mood. The more you use it the better you feel.”

Another user, eagee, wrote, “I suffered from depression for almost 25 years, and after I started applying tDCS I’ve had two years so far without it.”

If tDCS really can be so life changing for depression patients, why isn’t it more widely available?

According to Dr. Williams, “the equipment is so simple that it cannot be patented in the US. And if no one can own the rights to tDCS, no one can make a profit on it.”

That’s why, according to its supporters, tCDS is being ignored by major drug companies.

Slides From NIMH-sponsored tES Workshop Held September 29th and 30th at NIH

An email from Michelle Pearson at the NIH (because I had signed up for the online version of the workshop) alerted me today to a trove of TES (Transcranial Electric Stimulation) info being made available to us. Presenter slides (in PDF form) from the workshop were available for download. Because the download process was pretty wonky, involving many clicks and declined logins to Dropbox I thought to make them available here as well.

1-lisanby-introductory-remarks Sarah Hollingsworth Lisanby, M.D., NIH
2-rumsey-introduction Judy Rumsey, Ph.D.
3-wassermann-historical-overview Eric Wassermann, M.D., NINDS
4-parra-tdcs-mechanisms Lucas Parra, co-founder of Soterix Medial Inc. @lcparra1
5-frohlich-tacs-mechanisms @FlavioFrohlich, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
6-clark-combining-imaging-and-stimulation Vincent P. Clark, PhD Mind Research Network
7-woods-tes-technical-aspects Adam J. Woods, PhD @adamjwoods
8-richardson-blinding Jessica D. Richardson, Ph.D.
9-kappenman-reproducibility Emily S. Kappenman
10-bikson-computational-modeling-design Marom Bikson, CCNY @MaromBikson
11-deng-anatomical-variability-efields Zhi-De Deng, Ph.D., NIH
12-dmochowski-targeted-stimulation-sources Jacek P. Dmochowski, CCNY
13-loo-depression-trials Colleen Loo, Black Dog Institute
14-brunoni-neuropsychiatry-large-trials André R. Brunoni, @abrunoni
15-cohen-motor-learning Leonardo G. Cohen, M.D. NINDS
16-edwards-augmentation-neurorehabilitation Dylan J. Edwards PhD
17-lim-ongoing-trials Kelvin O. Lim, M.D.
18-frohlich-tacs-psychiatry-trials @FrohlichLab
19-charvet_remote-tdcs Leigh Charvet PhD, NYU

Early Torpedo Fish TES Researcher. From the Wassermann Historical Overview slides

Early Torpedo Fish TES Researcher. From the Wassermann Historical Overview slides

Cloud-Based tDCS Device For Remotely-Supervised Trials

Our ~6 min video about the project! Featuring & ‘s Prof Colleen Loo.

We developed a cellular brain stimulation device as part of our ELEC5622 Sensors, Signals & Health assessment at the University of Sydney. The technique, known as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), uses weak electrical currents to modulate ongoing brain activity, and is a promising treatment for a range of neurological and psychiatric diseases. As the feasibility of administering tDCS at home has recently become an emerging area of research, there is a substantial need for a tDCS device which send data to the clinician in real time.

[Update 11/7/16 The video mentioned has been deleted.]

Want to ‘train your brain’? Forget apps, learn a musical instrument | TheGuardian

Unlike commercial brain training products, which only improve performance on the skills involved, musical training has what psychologists refer to as transfer effects – in other words, learning to play a musical instrument seems to have a far broader effect on the brain and mental function, and improves other abilities that are seemingly unrelated.

“Music reaches parts of the brain that other things can’t,” says Loveday. “It’s a strong cognitive stimulus that grows the brain in a way that nothing else does, and the evidence that musical training enhances things like working memory and language is very robust.”

Full story: Want to ‘train your brain’? Forget apps, learn a musical instrument

TMS & Depression In The News

Now that TMS has been approved for the treatment of depression we’re seeing a lot more stories in the news. Naturally this is in part due to the marketing efforts of the four device makers currently FDA approved: Brainsway, Magstim, Magvita, and Neurostar. No doubt patients and doctors are eager to try an alternative where antidepressants didn’t work!

I will update this post as I find new and interesting news stories related to TMS and depression.

tdcsmagnetstms

Magnets cured my depression
New symptom-free treatment helps depression, reduce military suicides

University of British Columbia Explores tDCS With Yoga in Treatment of Depression

Fidel Vila-Rodriguez, an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, is exploring the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation combined with yoga, to see if it can be used to treat depression.

From UBC: Harnessing electricity to treat depression – in a kinder, gentler way

Foc.us Adds Online 3d Head Model For Help With Electrode Placement

From an email press release received 9/1/16.

To help with electrode positioning we have updated a 3d model head with the 10/20 electrode placements. Click the position name e.g. F3, and it will appear on the head. You will still need to translate this to your own head but we hope it helps. (Move the model around with your mouse.)

We are also now selling a version of Go Flow Pro that includes our 1020 position cap instead of the headband. It includes everything you need to get started.

tdcsFocusHead1 Shown here with F3 & F4tdcsFocusHead2

 

Olympic Athletes Are Electrifying Their Brains, and You Can Too | IEEE SPECTRUM

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?”

Olympic Athletes Are Electrifying Their Brains, and You Can Too

tdcsHaloHeadphone