Revisiting this post from a few months ago because as I slowly wade through these state-of-the-art brain stimulation presentations from the leading scientists in the field, I’m discovering a lot of new information that is not generally known or being discussed. For example, in this talk ‘BrainSTIM2015 – Physiology and functional effects of tDCS and related techniques’, Michael Nitsche explores why 1mA may be a better dosage choice and also how a second session of tDCS 30 minutes after the first may lead to increased plasticity effects.
Vince Clark has just published video presentations from the recent BrainSTIM conference.
This is a real treasure trove of state-of-the-art tDCS and brain stimulation information.
Presenters: Vince Clark, Giulio Ruffini, Marom Bikson, Peter Bandettini, Michael Nitsche, Katie Witkiewitz, Peter Fox, Luke Torre-Healy, Erika Ross, Mayank Jog, Abbas Babajani-Feremi, Alexander Opitz, Mark Lowe, Hiroyuki Oya, Felipe Salinas, Shalini Narayana, Branislava Curcic-Blake, Franca Tecchio, Yuranny Cabral-Calderin. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJXWh-KAWQdAYXZAMeH4SCg
The device did seem to work on some level. For 15 minutes, I experienced a light pressure on the side of my forehead while the electrodes delivered pulses. Toward the end of the session and for about an hour afterward, my brain was definitely down a notch. However, I wouldn’t describe the feeling as zen so much as vaguely stoned. This is apparently not unusual, as one of the company’s publicity reps, Mark de la Vina, told me that it makes a small percentage of users feel high. I felt a pleasant, light floatiness and noticed myself typing and speaking more slowly.
The sensation was something I could definitely get used to — although I won’t be swapping out my meditation practice for a vibe session anytime soon.
“People seek to relax … in different ways,” said Dr. Judy Iles, a University of British Columbia neuroethicist. “But why it is better or safer than exercise, meditation or fresh air or other healthy lifestyle behaviors is not evident.”
The bottom line? Early adopters are essentially part of an experiment. Casual users might replace the evening cocktail with an occasional zap, but until more research is done, you’d be wise to think twice before replacing your morning coffee with a jolt to the head.
[Update 10/19] Dr. Clark’s TEDxUNM just in. tDCS starts around 6:45
Dr. Clark is a pioneer of tDCS research. He recently spoke at TEDxUNM (TED talk at the University of New Mexico). I’m eagerly awaiting a video of his talk and will post it as soon as it becomes available. In the intro to Dr. Clark’s talk I found this amazing story.
You really need to read the full story. It outlines Dr. Clark’s journey to diagnose a rare disease that affected his 9 year old boy. tDCS is one of 3 treatment modalities he discussed in his talk…
Clark is already using tDCS to help treat drug addicts and reduce symptoms in people with Parkinson’s disease. As a part of this research, Clark is examining the ability to use tDCS to treat chronic pain, which he learned about while trying to find ways to reduce the amount of pain Ryan suffered. He’s been collaborating with other research groups that are having success using this procedure to reduce pain.
“It might be the first time that someone has come up with a way to treat pain consistently, but without using a drug,” he added.
Update 10/1/12 Dr. Clark is involved in a new site which “is meant to offer information and links about medical alternatives that are cheaper, safer and more effective than the current standard of care.” SmallerMedicine.com (links to tDCS page).
From (I believe) a talk in 2010 given at the Organization for Human Brain Mapping by Dr. Vince Clark, director of the Clinical Neuroscience Center at the University of New Mexico (and previously, director of the Mind Research Network). The slides reference a study where tDCS was used in training subjects to accurately detect hidden and camouflaged objects, as in a military setting. What caught my eye, something I don’t recall seeing anywhere else, is the comparison of effectiveness of different amounts of current. It begs the question: If 2 mA is more effective than 1 mA, what about 3 mA? [As Peter points out in his comment, the chart actually contrasts effects of 2 mA and 0.1 mA as a control. I do still think it’s a good question: Why 2 mA?]. Much I don’t understand in the slides without the talk to go along with, but have a look pdf, Quick View. And a link (abstract) to what appears to me a follow-up study. P.S. After tracking all this down I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to not be able to access the full texts of these studies, especially when we (NiH, DOD) paid for them. If you can get me a copy I would
greatly appreciate it.