TechKnow: How do you plan on measuring your progress with the tDCS headset?
Erica: So I’m using a brain training game called Dual N-Back. So far I’ve tracked my progress with the game without using the tDCS, and I plan to use tDCS, and then practice the game and see how far I can get.
TechKnow: Are you going to record this information? Do you plan on making it available to other people?
Erica: I plan to track the amount of time I’m spending using tDCS and how well I’m performing in the game to see what is correlated.
Very interesting! A successful ‘maker’ lab with previous EEG device success (32 channel, research-level EEG device) embarks on a lower cost, 4 channel EEG-device-for-the-masses Kickstarter campaign. It’s hugely successful, and fully funded ($80k) with 30 days left to go. So they launch a ‘stretch goal’ for an additional $80k of funding to add the option to pre-order (for $50) a tDCS module.
What does this mean for you and I? Well, it at least certainly points to the possibility that within the next few years we could be sitting in front of a computer screen, monitoring our EEG output (brainwaves, more or less) while we try out a tDCS (tACS, tRNS, tPCS etc.) montage. As in, “Oh Interesting! 1.5 mA stimulation to DLPFC (your forehead) tunes my Theta into that zone that makes me feel like writing a song!” (Kidding but you get the idea).
This gets me really excited when I think about the possibility of thousands of us doing it and contributing the collective data in a useful way to scientific research.
This is what first caught my eye! 3d printed HD-tDCS electrodes?
At OpenBCI, we are cautiously optimistic about the beneficial potential of transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS). As always, safety is our number one priority. We hope to educate the public about proper tDCS techniques, and to offer a new, open-source platform for studying the effects of tDCS on electrical brain activity. If we hit the $160,000 stretch goal, we will provide the option to pre-order a tDCS Shield that is compatible with both the Ganglion and our 32bit board. In addition, we will design custom Ultracortex node mounts for tDCS-specific electrodes. Anybody with the complete Ganglion+Ultracortex+tDCS system will be able to perform simultaneous neurostimulation and neurorecording, trying out different electrode configurations and creating custom “closed-loop” brain-computer interface systems.
tDCS is a type of neurostimulation in which a low-amperage direct current is passed through the scalp from a positively charged electrode (anode) to a negatively charged electrode (cathode). Some research has claimed that tDCS can increase cognitive performance and assist in the treatment of cognitive disorders such as depression and ADHD. Other studies have reported that there is no statistically conclusive evidence that tDCS has any net cognitive effect. Despite the effects of tDCS being critically debated, it is widely accepted that tDCS—when adhering to safety protocols and done in a controlled manner—is a safe method of brain stimulation.
Note that I do have a relationship with Caputron. When you make a purchase from their site using promo code diytdcs (add to ‘voucher’ box, any item on their site) you receive a discount and I receive an equivalent amount in exchange for providing them a visitor. I have been offered similar relationships with various vendors, but Caputron was the first I felt comfortable partnering with, primarily because their customer support and communication has been outstanding. But also because they carry the ActivaDose Iontophoresis Device which is an FDA approved device (approved for iontophoresis, not tDCS, but the point is that the components and quality are medical grade.) Bundled with the Caputron electrode kit, this is an excellent choice for anyone looking to experiment with tDCS. This is the only device I am personally recommending at this time.
Caputron is rapidly becoming the primary distributor of all things brain stimulation. This puts them in the unique position of being able to bundle appropriate electrodes and cables with the various devices they carry.
But Caputron are also manufacturers and we can look forward to interesting tDCS related products of their own coming soon.
Nathan Whitmore continues to push the envelope on DIY brain stimulation. Somewhat above my limited capabilities, we can assume that as the project evolves, the build will get simpler.
BrainKit 1.0 released
To download BrainKit, click here to go to its GitHub page. You can also see an earlier post which lays out some of the concepts behind BrainKit here.
Planning BrainKit started about a year ago when I was thinking about the question “now that putting together the hardware and software to make a relatively inexpensive device to stimulate the brain is basically a solved problem, what is the next major obstacle to the use of noninvasive brain stimulation?” The answer was (and still is) figuring out where in the brain to stimulate to achieve some desired effect.
BrainKit was inspired by this idea, a brain stimulator which also is capable of monitoring brain activity and using statistics to understand the neural correlates of mental states and design stimulation montages more intelligently. For instance, BrainKit can find brain regions that show different patterns of activity in fatigued and alert states—and then allow you to stimulate these regions to see if it affects alertness.
Hey, we’re mentioned in a legit scientific journal! The article traces the evolution of tDCS in the public’s consciousness, and points out how sites like my own and the tDCS subReddit serve a valuable function in filtering information as presented in the general media, which often has a tendency to sensationalize soundbite takeaways from legit scientific papers. So chalk one up for citizen science and let’s hope this is a step along the way towards legit research that taps into the DIY communities. i.e. University-level research that creates methodologies for using DIY generated data.
The availability of tDCS as a consumer device, as well as the vivid online exchange of experiences with tDCS as well as instructions for DIY use (cf.: http://www.reddit.com/r/tDCS/; http://www.diytdcs.com) may be explanatory factors shaping the change in public attitudes towards tDCS, The observation that in the LATER PERIOD misunderstanding was reduced can be regarded as evidence that the public was developing a more mature understanding of tDCS. In view of the past trends, it appears important to inform the public accurately on the short- and long-term consequences of tDCS on healthy individuals and on the plausibility of enhancement effects. In addition, detailed knowledge of the current practice and prevalence of DIY tDCS is also needed.
[Update 2/28/15] I’ve been re-stacking the post order lately around whatever seems especially significant or interesting. This is the only device I’ve seen so far with dual electrode (sets of) capacity and I’m curious to hear if anyone has used the ApeX 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.]
Despite increased knowledge, and more sophisticated experimental and modeling approaches, fundamental questions remain about how electricity can interact with ongoing brain function in information processing or as a medical intervention. Specifically, what biophysical and network mechanisms allow for weak electric fields to strongly influence neuronal activity and function? How can strong and weak fields induce meaningful changes in CNS function? How do abnormal endogenous electric fields contribute to pathophysiology? Topics included in the review range from the role of field effects in cortical oscillations, transcranial electrical stimulation, deep brain stimulation, modeling of field effects, and the role of field effects in neurological diseases such as epilepsy, hemifacial spasm, trigeminal neuralgia, and multiple sclerosis.
Can’t vouch for the veracity of this diagram, but I like the format of the information and hope we can evolve a useful diagram that would also track (link to) specific tDCS studies that confirm the relationship of electrode-placement/brain-function. Via Reddit User cellavy
The first type of meditation I practice is the standard “focus” meditation that is taught on headspace.com, and there are great walk-throughs there. I use tDCS to calm the conscious mind by placing the cathode on FpZ the center of the forehead and the anode at OZ center of the back of the head. I do this montage for 5–10 minutes, then remove the electrodes and meditate, focusing on my breath, for 10–15 minutes. I usually do this in the morning, and afterwards, I usually place the anode at FpZ and cathode on upper left arm and run the current for another 5–10 minutes. I find this is helpful in getting into work mode.
My sense is that the author’s experience is very similar to that of most tDCS DIYers – an initial flurry of interest followed by frustration at not knowing if ‘it’s working’. That’s why it’s exciting to see easily replicated protocols for self-testing emerging around the Dual N-Back game that is available for free. http://brainworkshop.sourceforge.net/download.html
We’d decided to try the “accelerated learning” montage that had been developed and tested by DARPA. The best test of the device we could come up with was to play Nintendo Wii Mario Kart while brain zapping for 20 minutes — our performance seemed easily measurable (we would just play the same course, over and over) and a lot less violent. At first I was miserable, my green dinosaur avatar, Yoshi, falling off the track on every hairpin turn and barely finishing the course in 3:30. By the end, though, I was cracking 3:00. Of course, there was no control here, no way to tell whether I was simply learning a new skill, but I was cautiously optimistic.
In the weeks that followed, I stuck to it, undertaking 20 minutes of tDCS four to five days a week. I decided to try to teach myself interactive web design, and whenever I’d run the current through my brain, I’d accompany it with 20 minutes on Code Academy, the teach-yourself-to-code megasite. But after a few weeks, the results I was looking for seemed elusive. I was obviously getting better at coding, but there was no way for me to know what role the electricity was playing. And it was still kind of painful. So I quit, and about two months after visiting Bikson’s lab, my tDCS device is gathering dust on a shelf in my office.
Jesse interviews Nathan Whitmore, creator of the open-source project OpenBrainStim, an affordable alternative to commercial transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) devices. Nathan tells us how the project got started, how the “DIY-tCDS” community has grown, and how you can experiment from the comfort of your own home.