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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Update 3/1/17 Not sure when it happened, but a reader alerted me to the fact the tDCS Shield addon was abandoned.
After many conversations with experts in the field of neuroscience and brain-computer interfacing, we have made the difficult decision to discontinue development of the tDCS Shield.
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.