Can a little electrical stimulation help people learn quicker? And how would technology that does this be used? And why would you want to use this over medicines?
Professor Roi Cohen Kadosh describes a phenomena that they’ve noticed where giving people a little electrical stimulation to the scalp appears to help people learn things quicker; and rather than using this to make super-geniuses, could this be used to help people with learning difficulties? Roi discusses how it might work, and discussed the moral and ethical implications of such a technology. From Oxford Sparks.
Fascinating stories of people with Aspergers who discover feelings and empathy as participants in TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) studies. Begs the question, what if, as the effects of TMS fade, tDCS could be used to ‘top up’ their emotional awareness?
Frame of Reference From NPR’s amazing ‘Invisibilia’.
We all carry an invisible frame of reference in our heads that filters our experience. Alix and Hanna talk to a woman who gets a glimpse of what she’s been missing – and then loses it.
Anna Wexler is a Ph.D. candidate in the HASTS Program (History, Anthropology, Science, Technology, and Society) at MIT. Her dissertation focuses on the ethical, social and regulatory implications of consumer non-invasive brain stimulation. She is currently a 2015-2016 visiting scholar at the Center for Neuroscience and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2007, Anna graduated from MIT with two Bachelors’ of Science degrees, one in Brain and Cognitive Science and the other in Humanities and Science with a focus in Writing.
[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.
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!
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.
Excellent! A full hour with Dr. Wesiend. Haven’t listened yet but guaranteed to be the latest info in our understanding of tDCS. We met Dr. Weisend earlier in podcast #4,
Recently, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) or the non-invasive targeting of weak direct current (DC) to specific brain regions has received media attention. Among the scientific research community, tDCS has been a subject of great interest owing to its usage ease, relative inexpensiveness, and encouraging research results on a range of functions. Studies have seen tDCS accelerate learning, reduce symptoms of dementia, and improve attention in those with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Understandably, a coinciding rise in the DIY community has also prompted an increase in consumer devices available for home use in hopes of mimicking tDCS’s potential neuroenhancement abilities.
Lynne Malcolm: Colleen Loo says that this transcranial direct current stimulation treatment is best used for people with clinical depression who haven’t responded to other treatments. There are very few, if any, side-effects and some participants have even noticed benefits beyond changing their moods.
Colleen Loo: Yes, and this was very exciting. So when we did our first depression trial we were measuring things like memory and thinking…you know, it was just to be safe, to check these things. And one of the things we measured was we asked people to do a test which really showed you how quickly the brain was working. And as people went through the trial they were saying things like, ‘Gee, I don’t know what kind of stimulation I’m having, but it’s almost like my brain clears and I can concentrate and think so much more clearly after the stimulation.’
So we were very excited when we got the end of the study and we formally analysed the results of the formal test, that it showed exactly what people were saying to us, that after the act of stimulation the actual thinking speed was faster, and that has led our team to develop a whole parallel line of research of using TDCS to improve memory and thinking. So our main line of research is in treating depression, but I also have a very promising young researcher who is a clinical neuropsychologist, Dr Donel Martin, who is heading a whole program of research into using this to improve memory and thinking. For example, in people who are older and who are just starting to notice some changes in their memory and thinking.
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.
In the last couple years, tDCS has been all over the news. Researchers claim that juicing the brain with just 2 milliamps (think 9-volt battery) can help with everything from learning languages, to quitting smoking, to overcoming depression. We bring Michael Weisend, neuroscientist at Wright State Research Institute, into the studio to tell us how it works (Bonus: you get to hear Jad get his brain zapped). Peter Reiner and Nick Fitz of the University of British Columbia help us think through the consequences of a world where anyone with 20 dollars and access to Radioshack can make their own brain zapper. And finally, Sally tells us about the unexpected after-effects of a day of super-charged sniper training and makes us wonder about world where you can order up a state of mind.
Michael Weisend PHD. is a principal investigator at The Mind Research Network, MRN.org, and assistant professor of Translational Neuroscience at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Dr. Weisend and his team pioneered a method for determining optimal brain regions for tDCS stimulation using fMRI. Much of Dr. Weisend’s work is focused on cognitive enhancement in healthy subjects for the purpose of reducing the amount of time it takes to master a skill. He shared a full hour of his time and a wealth of tDCS-related information. Download the interviewhere (zipped mp3). Subscribe in iTunes. (Firefox users- there’s an issue with the html5 audio player. In the meantime you can download the episode or open the page in another browser).
Marom Bikson is CEO of Soterix Medical and Associate Professor at City College of New York in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Marom is a distinguished tDCS scientist and prominent in the development of HD-tDCS. Download the interviewhere (zipped mp3). (Firefox users- there is an audio player here, but it’s displaying intermittently. Trying to track down the issue. In the meantime you can download the episode or open the page in another browser).
(We got a good forty minutes of interview in before the Skype gremlins caught up with us. I had to cobble an ending together.)
Perhaps depression studies are closest to FDA qualification for tDCS?
(Prediction is very hard, especially about the future – Yogi Berra.)
A device (NorDoc Smartstim) that can go to 4mA is being used in a smoking cessation trial? (Trial info indicates 2mA current dose.)
FDA tDCS approval would be device-specific at first. But would open the door to ‘me too’ mechanism, FDA 510(k)
HD tDCS can have multiple cathodes and or multiple anodes. An array of 4 small anodes splitting 2mA, for example (.5 mA each electrode), can function as an anodal ‘virtual pad’. Assumes cathode somewhere else on the body).
Image By Richard McKinley USAF
Tolerability is how tolerable in terms of side effects a medication is.
A Theory of tDCS (“Gross oversimplification”) As positive current flows into the cortex it passes neurons.
Because of the nature of neurons, this positive current depolarizes somas (cell’s body), increasing excitability, thereby increasing the functionality & plasticity of that region (hypothesis… “We really don’t know.”). Under the cathode, somas (cells) are being hyper-polarized – excitabilty decreases.
A synapse is a structure that permits a neuron (or nerve cell) to pass an electrical or chemical signal to another cell. Pyramidal neuron
Titration, also known as titrimetry, is a common laboratory method of quantitative chemical analysis that is used to determine the unknown concentration of an identified analyte.
TES Transcranial Electric Stimulation
“transcranial electrical stimulation” Merton and Morton 1980
“Priming the network in conjunction with applying tDCS makes a lot of sense, as a way to make the tDCS to do what you want.” (Co-priming – The idea that one would initiate an activity first, and THEN add tDCS.)
[Apologies for audio quality. It won’t happen again.]
Dr. Jim Fugedy runs the Brain Stimulation Clinic, in Atlanta, GA, and has been treating patients using tDCS since 2007. Download the interviewhere (zipped mp3).
Dr. Jim Fugedy
The Brain Stimulation Clinic in Atlanta is the destination for memory and learning enhancement and treatment-resistant patients who suffer from chronic pain, fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, CRPS, depression and tinnitus. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) therapy is provided in a pleasant, relaxing environment. Instruction, training and supervision for home use is also available for select patients.
Jim is an anesthesiologist.
The study Jim refers to regarding Felipe Fregni & fibromyalgia: A randomized, sham-controlled, proof of principle study of transcranial direct current stimulation for the treatment of pain in fibromyalgia (full pdf)
tDCS for treatment of fibromyalgia is not certified – it’s ‘off label’
Device is certified, but not for tDCS = no insurance code, can’t be billed to insurance
20 minute treatment for 5 days.
For fibromyalgia – reduces pain, improves issues – fatigue, compromised mental function
(ActivaDose ii Update 3/16 now available as complete tDCS kit through Caputron Medical, use voucher code ‘diytdcs’ for generous discount.)
Most benefit… chronic depression, treatment protocol based on Colleen Loo, Black Dog Institute 6 weeks, follow up maintenance. Up to 8 weeks of treatment + 1-2 treatments follow up maintenance. Daily 20 minute sessions
Can be treated at the clinic for 1-2 weeks. Or home treatment package.
“To treat depression, I place the anode over the left dlpfc (left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) and the cathode over the contralateral supraorbital area. I have tried positioning the cathode over the contralateral dlpfc and extracephalically (opposite shoulder or upper arm), but the contralateral supraorbital locations provides the most robust effect.” (Correspondence)
Pain montage 2mA, anode M1 & cathode contralateral supra-orbital area
For chronic pain, the M1 is the most used area and that’s almost always my first choice. But you can use the cathode over the somatosensory (S1) cortex, to down-regulate the patient’s perception of pain.
And you can also stimulate the Dorsalateral prefrontal cortex which is involved in the emotional component of pain.
Looking at stimulating right dorsalateral prefrontal cortex to attenuate anxiety.
… it may be a location
for the non-pharmaceutical treatment for ADD.
Office visit $150.
Home use treatment package $2400 includes in-office evaluation and training, ActivaDose ii device, electrodes, and unlimited follow-up via visit, phone, skype…
Only side effect Jim has seen is skin burn (but easily avoided with sponge electrodes).
(Patient with skin burns who’d been treated by a doctor using electroencephalogram (EEG) electrodes.)
Tinnitus responds well, though temporarily, to tDCS
Anode, right dorsalateral prefrontal cortex, cortex opposite supra-orbital Harvard one day course on how to treat with tDCS. Taught 3-4 times a year.
Contrast with approved Electromagnetic treatment for depression (I think he’s referring to TMS transcranial magnetic stimulation here) A 6 week 30 treatment protocol costs between $10-15,000. Affects last about 6 months. And even though it’s certified, it’s not covered by insurance.
…”in the 12 years that it’s been used there have been no side effects reported other than skin (irritations).
“You know we hear stories about Canadians having to wait for surgery. But in the United States, if you don’t have the money and you don’t have insurance, you don’t have to worry about waiting, you won’t get the surgery.”
You can reach Jim at: doctorfugedy [theAtSignHere] transcranialbrainstimulation.com
Well here we go! Episode one of the DIY tDCS podcast. Ana Maiques is co-founder (with Giulio Ruffini) of Spanish-based Starlab. Their spin-off company, Neuroelectrics makes Enobio, a research-quality wireless EEG device, and Starstim, a multi-channel wireless tcs & tDCS device. Download the interviewhere (zipped mp3). Show notes after the fold.
Ana Maiques of Starlab and Enobio
Ana Maiques wearing her Enobio
(If you speak Spanish you might enjoy the interview these photos were taken from.) Also, if you’re an EEG or tDCS researcher or clinician (or VC) on the East Coast, Ana is frequently in the New York and Boston area and is happy to discuss Enobio and Starstim. Neuroelectrics will be at the Advances in Mediation Research conference in NY Jan. 17 2013. (Schedule) Check out the Neuroelectrics blog for excellent tDCS and EEG info.
Starlab is the parent company > Space (sensors) + Neuroscience
Cutting edge research > impact on society… products and services
Twelve years of research in neuroscience > Enobio, Starstim
Initial market is early adopters – researchers, clinicians and practitioners
Starstim (tDCS) > chronic pain, stroke rehabilitation (later… depression >> cognitive enhancement, addiction)
Medically certified in Europe and Canada
Filing 510k for Enobio in the US
Starstim has 8 channels for use as HD tDCS but can also use traditionally
Can also do tACS (alternating current), or random noise stimulation and at the same time Simultaneously record EEG
Can also use dry EEG electrodes Roi Cohen Kadosh Oxford study, kids etc. (Link to video we discussed. NewScientist)
Study will determine if tDCS is efficacious in enhancing performance in certain areas (math)
Will have implications for people with Alzheimers
Partnerships with 15 hospitals doing research with Starstim
8 in U.S. and 7 in Europe. Different pathologies. Results to be published soon.
Post-stroke rehabilitation is a great place to see the effectiveness of tDCS
tDCS > Motor recovery… hand rehabilitation…
Can thereby measure the degrees of movement and improvement very objectively
Couple of groups showing very measurable results.
The Muse, Neurosky, Emotiv Home EEG devices?
Limitation is number of channels.
Started Enobio with 4 channels, but feedback from medical community lead to developing a 20 channel Enobio.
For certain applications – games, BCI etc, the home EEG devices might be fine
But we’re looking at the medical application of EEG.
Doctors and researchers require the maximum coverage of the head.
Signal quality is very important.
Emotion recognition, neural marketing, traumatic brain injury – concussion
BCI – wheelchairs.
Sponsoring a conference in NY on meditation. Sloan Kettering pre-chemo
medications >> less pain, better toleration of treatment.
Spanish VCs even more conservative since crisis
Patents >> cloud-based database recording experimental data
Software runs on a Mac.
“We always said we want to be the Apple of neuroscience…”