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)


Here’s What Zapping Your Brain with Electricity Feels Like | LiveScience

Interesting to note that Michael Weisend is now associated with San Francisco based company Rio Grande Neurosciences.

The current was set to 2 milliamps, about 1,000 times less than the electrical current that flows through a typical iPad charger. But only about 1/50th of that current makes it through the skull to the brain, Weisend said. The stimulation, which lasted for 10 minutes, was aimed at my right inferior frontal cortex and the right anterior temporal lobe, which are brain areas thought to be important for learning. If this were a real experiment, Weisend would have scanned my brain first to determine the optimal placement for the electrode, but in my case, he made an approximation.

I turned the electricity on myself, and the first thing I noticed was the mild stinging where the electrode attached to my head. Weisend assured me this was normal, but said if the sensation continued, he would turn it off and try to get a better connection. Next I noticed a slight taste of metal in my mouth, a common side effect of tDCS, according to Weisend.


Spark of Genius? Awakening a Better Brain | World Science Festival



DATE: Wednesday, May 27, 2015
TIME: 8:00 PM-9:30 PM
VENUE: NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
How far would you go to improve your focus, memory, or even learning ability? Would you be willing to strap on headgear that delivers electrical shocks to targeted areas of your brain? You may soon have that option. It’s called transcranial direct current stimulation, and while variations of the technique are already known to help depression patients, it’s currently being tested on soldiers, and used by gamers, students, and others looking for a cognitive edge. Does it work? Can carefully directed electrical stimulation improve cognitive function? What are potential long-term effects? And how should it be regulated?

Does tDCS accelerate learning safely? – Dr. Michael Weisend | The Quantified Body

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.

Source: Does tDCS accelerate learning safely? – Dr. Michael Weisend | The Quantified Body

How a gentle electrical jolt can focus a sluggish mind| PBS

What a couple of days. First the New Yorker, now PBS tv! If you’re new to tDCS I’d caution you to note that Marom Bikson, one of the leading tDCS researchers in the world, is quoted below as saying ‘perhaps’, as in perhaps it improves brain function. Also, in the section where Andy McKinley is able to dramatically increase reporter Miles O’Brien’s performance of a vigilance task, ask yourself if you really have a need to improve your ‘Where’s Waldo’ score. Unfortunately, the piece doesn’t go into the use of tDCS as a tool to fight depression, which in my opinion, has come closest so far to a verifiable effect borne out by much clinical research. My point is simply that it’s early. We don’t have our tDCS ‘killer app’ yet. Stay tuned!

MILES O’BRIEN: But step aside, grande latte. There’s a new kid on the block.

MAROM BIKSON: So, current is going to come out of the device to the electrodes on your forehead and it’s going to flow through your head.

MILES O’BRIEN: Biomedical engineer Marom Bikson at the City College of New York is prepping me for a dose of transcranial direct current stimulation, or TDCS, a jump-start for my brain.

MAROM BIKSON: It can make the brain perhaps function information more effectively and therefore make you, let’s say, better at things. Or it can make the brain more likely to undergo plasticity, more malleable, more able to learn.

MILES O’BRIEN: A human brain has 100 billion nerve cells or neurons. Neurons are networkers. They make multiple connections with each other via synapses. We have about 100 trillion of them. All of this runs on electricity that we generate ourselves.

MAROM BIKSON: Now, this was the montage that we tried on you.

MILES O’BRIEN: It turns out each of our neurons is a microscopic battery with a-tenth of a volt of electricity. When we’re using them to remember things or do math or write this story, they fire electrical spikes.

MAROM BIKSON: When we’re adding electricity to the brain with TDCS, instead of a tenth of a volt, we’re producing a 1,000th-of-a-volt change, so it’s not enough to trigger a spike. It’s not enough to generate a spike, but it’s enough to modulate the spikes, to maybe get more spikes or to get less spikes.

And in this video Miles gets to fly a helicopter simulator before and after using tDCS.
How zapping his brain made Miles O’Brien a better pilot



via How a gentle electrical jolt can focus a sluggish mind.

Dr. Michael Weisend on The Doctors TV

Known as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), the process involves attaching electrodes to the skull and targeting specific areas of the brain with calculated jolts of electricity.

“The brain is an electrical organ, so it makes sense to try to manipulate what’s going on in the brain with electricity,” explains neuroscientist Dr. Michael Weisend.

DYI Electro Shock Therapy, Can it Make You Smarter? | Vocativ

I could do without all the electroshock cutaways. Interesting that the same protocol & montage that so improved the Radiolab reporter’s results with the stereograms did nothing for this reporter. The reverse-polartiy montage did however seem to have quite an effect on producer Justin. Both these montages are discussed in my interview with Michael Weisend.

Brilliant for a Day: The (REAL) Science of Brain Enhancing Stimulation | Armed with Science

The Department of Veterans Affairs, in conjunction with the VA in Texas and the Women’s Hospital in Boston, are collaborating with Dr. Weisend and his team to use their tDCS system on service members who are struggling to live with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

“The way we approach it is not just simply hoping behavior changes,” Dr. Wesiend says. “What we do is we figure out what the most important thing to change is so that we can effect a person’s life in a positive way. For example, people with PTSD tell me they have terribly disrupted sleep. Traumatic brain injury sufferers may have a completely different problem. It’s like thinking of different disorders as having their own personalities.”

via Brilliant for a Day: The (REAL) Science of Brain Enhancing Stimulation | Armed with Science.

Wright State Research Institute hires nationally recognized neuroscientist Michael Weisend « Wright State University

The Wright State Research Institute has hired renowned neuroscientist Michael Weisend, Ph.D., as a senior research scientist. Weisend is a pioneer in the application of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which applies electricity to specific areas of the brain to enhance learning.

“We’re thrilled to have Mike join our team,” said WSRI Director Jason Parker, Ph.D. “His research is truly profound and has the potential to transform human performance and healthcare. He’s an excellent addition to the group of talented neuroscience researchers at Wright State and the Research Institute.”

via Wright State Newsroom – Wright State Research Institute hires nationally recognized neuroscientist « Wright State University.

Michael Weisend – Mind Research Network DIYtDCS Podcast #4

Dr. Michael WeisendMichael Weisend PHD. is a principal investigator at The Mind Research Network,, 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 interview here (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).

Show Notes
The Sally Adee article I discuss. (pdf)
The Through The Wormhole episode mentioned. (YouTube)
DARPA The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
DARWARS Ambush NK is a research program intended to accelerate the development and deployment of military training systems. (wiki) (pdf)
TDCS guided using fMRI significantly accelerates learning to identify concealed objects.
eeg electrodes + gel + wrap.
Transcranial direct current stimulation’s effect on novice versus experienced learning.
iNTIFIC Develops games and training.
pulsed oscillatory electromagnetic fields
Fisher Wallace Stimulator.
Perils of tDCS.
F10-anodal, cathodal-opposite upper arm, actually does something.
‘Target search and identification’. What could it be good for the average person?
Dear reader, help me find a way to build a self-experiment that will test my results.
Recalling distant memories?
Girl who heard melodies.
Guy who solved a problem he’d been working on.
Age-related memory decline… ‘I can find words now…’
-More verbally fluent as a result of tDCS
-Left Inferior Frontal Gyrus (approx F5-anode, cathode opposite upper arm)
“People do not like it.” Cathodal stimulation of F10
Accelerating non-declarative skill learning.
-Cathode-L-DLPFC, Anode-M1
Grants outstanding to test more of this.
Recruiting the correct brain network to deal with the stimuli at hand for the purpose of successful task completion.
Competing brain networks!
Neural modulation fastest growing area of medicine.
Ethics of tDCS.
Lisa Marshall
Potential for-profit applications?
Conferences: Human Brain Mapping, Seattle June 16-20
Society for Neuroscience San Diego Nov 9-13

A Treasure Trove of Stimulating Information!

universityNMJust found this in iTunesU. Wow! You’ll recognize many of these names if you’re reading the tDCS literature. I’ve only watched the Michael Weisend talks (whom we met earlier on the blog) so far. I have a much better understanding of the difficulty of running a tDCS trial now. There’s a lot that can go wrong. If your protocols aren’t set up just right, your information might be useless. Here’s the web link iTunes Link from which you can download in iTunes. Downloads are quite slow.

Introduction to Neurosystems Engineering, Spring 2011 (ECE 595)                   Neurosystems Engineering is an emerging field at the intersection of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Engineering, and the University of New Mexico is its epicenter.

Course Intro   Dr. Gerold Yonas
Course Syllabus   Dr. Gerold Yonas
Tools and Techniques in Neuronal Stimulation  Dr. Edl Schamiloglu
Basic Principles of Feedback and Control   Prof. Chaouki T. Abdallah
Discussing the Course General Approach and Direction  Dr. Gerold Yonas
Effects of Direct Current, Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation on Learning  Michael Weisend
In the Laboratory Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)   Michael Weisend
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Roles for Treatment & Prevention (Part I) Dr. Pilar M Sanjuan
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Roles for Treatment & Prevention (Part II) Dr. Pilar M Sanjuan
Tour of the Mind Research Network   Dr. Vince D. Calhoun
Neuroimaging of Intelligence and Creativity (Part I)    Dr. Rex E. Jung
Neuroimaging of Intelligence and Creativity (Part II)   Dr. Rex E. Jung
Memories and Migraines: Application of tDCS  Laura Matzen
Neurochemistry Application in NonInvasive Brain Stimulation  Dr. Charles Gasparovic
Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation    1:03:47   Lucas C. Parra
Epilepsy, Autism, and Novel Treatment Strategies   Dr. Jeffrey David Lewine
The Emerging Field of Sleep Disorders Medicine  Dr. Barry Krakow
Presentation of Class Projects   Student

Marom Bikson of Soterix Medical and CUNY – DIY tDCS Podcast Episode #3

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 interview here (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).

Marom Bikson

Marom Bikson

(We got a good forty minutes of interview in before the Skype gremlins caught up with us. I had to cobble an ending together.)

Show Notes:
Post-Doc, Neurophysiology Unit, University of Birmingham Medical School, U.K., 2003
Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering, Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH, 2000
B.S., Biomedical Engineering (EE Concentration), Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, 1995
Introduction to Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) in Neuropsychiatric Research
5th International Conference on Non-invasive Brain Stimulation 2013

Instrumentation – making medical gizmos, process.
IRB- Institutional Review Board
IRB at the FDA
Small Business Technology Transfer STTR grant.

Soterix partners
Abhishek Datta CTO,
Lucas Parra
Bootstrapped at this point.

Difficulty in engineering medical devices is in designing for the anomalous cases- how that 1 in 999 times situation could go wrong.

Clinical trials. Depression, (Colleen Loo, Blackdog Institute), pain, stroke, epilepsy clinical trials ongoing.

Customizing technologies to match needs of particular clinical situations.

Soterix developed software designed for clinicians.
Modeling current flow through the head.

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

Image By Richard McKinley USAF

Tolerability is how tolerable in terms of side effects a medication is.

Transcutaneous Spinal Direct Current Stimulation Example tsDCS paper.

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.)

DARPA supported accelerated learning.

Memory consolidation.
Lisa Marshall

H. Branch Coslett, MD

DIY tDCS community and building medical devices. Redundancy.
tDCS implies proven, vetted protocols, that have been used in clinical trials.

Thanks Marom!

Alan Snyder and Michael Weisend on Through The Wormhole

Ted pointed this out to me in a comment. We’ve met both Alan Snyder and Michael Weisend elsewhere on the blog. This video sums up nicely the areas they’re working in. Anyone else alarmed at the thought of there being a pressing need to fill drone pilot seats and that perhaps tDCS could cut training time in half?

Photo links to YouTube video.


Michael Weisend Mind Research Network

Obviously we don’t have access to fMRI, yet. But the method Wesiend is demonstrating in the video certainly seems the way to go: Isolate the area of the brain used in the desired skill, and then apply tDCS to facilitate learning.

This is definitely a pattern-recognition type of experiment.

fMRI Showing Medial Temporal Lobe Activity

fMRI Showing Medial Temporal Lobe Activity

…When you are a novice, there’s low-level activation in the medial temporal lobes. But in experts, there’s very high-level activation. And so we targeted tDCS at these areas that increase activity in order to accelerate training. (This is context of drone pilot training)

ActivaDose Device

ActivaDose Device



electrode harness

Electrode Harness

I need help identifying and understanding this electrode setup. Note that it’s the same electrode being used in this shot from a Scientific America article discussing the same research. If there was an electrode in the middle of the cluster, that might be the Anode and the surrounding electrodes could be Cathodes (as seems to be what is developing around HD-tDCS). But a symmetrical 5 node electrode cluster is confusing me.

Image By Richard McKinley USAF

I was trying to understand why Soterix (Marom Bikson) would be developing devices that could administer 8 channels of tDCS simultaneously. Putting the pieces of these articles, papers, and videos together, it becomes pretty clear that tDCS, used to enhance training, especially in military (DOD) contexts, could be hugely profitable.

P.S. In this study, published in the Jan 2012 issue of Neuroimage, Weisend reports using fMRI to locate optimal tDCS application area. Unfortunately, it’s behind a paywall.
TDCS guided using fMRI significantly accelerates learning to identify concealed objects

Anodal 2.0 mA tDCS performed for 30 min over these regions in a series of single-blind, randomized studies resulted in significant improvements in learning and performance compared with 0.1 mA tDCS. This difference in performance increased to a factor of two after a one-hour delay. A dose-response effect of current strength on learning was also found.

Neurosystems for National Security – MRN

More from and about the Mind Research Network.

The goal of NS2 is to translate high spatial and temporal resolution brain imaging, fMRI, MEG, and noninvasive brain stimulation into viable solutions for training soldiers and intelligence professionals to help them with real-time decision making and actions that avert injury and trauma. Noninvasive brain stimulation, specifically transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS), is being used to attempt to influence the learning process, perhaps increasing the speed of learning or improving retention. TDCS utilizes scalp electrodes to deliver low amplitude direct currents to localized areas of the cerebral cortex (the superficial part of the brain), thereby modulating the level of excitability, or, put another way, increasing or decreasing the probability that neurons will talk to each other. “Even though TDCS has been applied to humans safely for decades, we are just beginning to learn how it helps to accelerate the learning process. Within the next couple of years, I expect great progress toward this goal,” says researcher Dr. Michael Weisend.

via Neurosystems for National Security – MRN.
See Also: tDCS at MRN