Here, we examined the effects of tDCS of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex on planning function by using the Tower of London task to evaluate performance during and after anodal, cathodal (1 mA, 15 min), and sham tDCS in 24 healthy volunteers. The key finding was a double dissociation of polarity and training phase: improved performance was found with cathodal tDCS applied during acquisition and early consolidation, when preceding anodal tDCS, but not in the later training session. In contrast, anodal tDCS enhanced performance when applied in the later sessions following cathodal tDCS. Our results indicate that both anodal and cathodal tDCS can improve planning performance as quantified by the Tower of London test.
Even at $99, the GoFlow kit is fairly expensive. Just so you understand just how simple tDCS is, all you have to do is pass 9V at 2mA through your scalp for 30 minutes. To do this, you need a battery, some electrodes, a resistor, and if you’re feeling snazzy (and safe) a current regulator. To be fair, for your $99, GoFlow will give you a plastic housing and provide a potentiometer — presumably so you can find the right voltage for your brain. You also need to know where to place the electrodes on your scalp, to boost the right area of your brain. Judging by the picture on the right, GoFlow will provide a map of the various regions.
This inspired us to investigate whether the mental set effect can be reduced by non-invasive brain stimulation. 60 healthy right-handed participants were asked to take an insight problem solving task while receiving transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to the anterior temporal lobes (ATL). Only 20% of participants solved an insight problem with sham stimulation (control), whereas 3 times as many participants did so (p = 0.011) with cathodal stimulation (decreased excitability) of the left ATL together with anodal stimulation (increased excitability) of the right ATL.
A man has married 20 women in a small town. All of the women are still alive, and none of them is divorced. The man has broken no laws. Who is the man?
If you solved the question, the solution probably came to you in an incandescent flash: The man is a priest. Research led by Mark Beeman and John Kounios has identified where that flash probably came from. In the seconds before the insight appears, a brain area called the superior anterior temporal gyrus aSTG exhibits a sharp spike in activity. This region, located on the surface of the right hemisphere, excels at drawing together distantly related information, which is precisely what’s needed when working on a hard creative problem.Interestingly, Mr. Beeman and his colleagues have found that certain factors make people much more likely to have an insight, better able to detect the answers generated by the aSTG. For instance, exposing subjects to a short, humorous video—the scientists use a clip of Robin Williams doing stand-up—boosts the average success rate by about 20%.Alcohol also works.
Seriously, if you’re excited to do this, invent an “electrode hat” that requires little to no skill to apply, and does not require finicky salt water or electrode paste. That is the best possible thing to do, and can be parlayed into a multi-million-dollar business.
Then, if you’re still interested in tDCS, find a doctor to help you get a Soterix. It has a current source, but it also measures the actual resistance and current being used as a safety precaution, provides feedback if things aren’t right, and has a micro controller to do stuff like timing, logging, etc. You could build one for a lot less than the asking price, but it’s much more complicated (and better) than a 9V with a current source chip.
This one can be bought in the U.S. right now! No idea if this is a legit outfit. If you buy one, let us know!
Current settings from 0.5 to 2mA in 0.1mA increments.
Duration up to 30 minutes with countdown clock display.
Continuous monitoring and display of actual current.
Continuous monitoring and display of electrode quality.
Slow ramp up for skin conditioning and comfort.
Automatic abort on excessive resistance to prevent skin irritation.
To learn more about tDCS, visit the how it works or the research section.
Stuart Gromley sits hunched over a desk in his bedroom, groping along the skin of his forehead, trying to figure out where to glue the electrodes. The wires lead to a Radio Shack Electronics Learning Lab, a toy covered with knobs, switches, and meters. Even though he’s working with a kiddie lab, Gromley, a 39-year-old network administrator in San Francisco, can’t afford to make mistakes: he’s about to send the current from a nine-volt battery into his own brain.
Gromley’s homemade contraption is modeled on the devices used in some of the top research centers around the world. Called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), the technology works on the principle that even the weak electrical signals generated by a small battery can penetrate the skull and affect hot-button areas on the outer surface of the brain. In the past few years, scholarly research papers have touted tDCS as a non-invasive and safe way to rejigger our thoughts and feelings, and possibly to treat a variety of mental disorders. Most provocatively, researchers at the National Institute of Health have shown that running a small jolt of electricity through the forehead can enhance the verbal abilities of healthy people. That is, tDCS might do more than just alleviate symptoms of disease. It might help make its users a little bit smarter.
Update 7/22/12: This device comes from UK based Magstim.
Amazing! Italian company has home tDCS unit available, I think. My Italian isn’t very good and the product links on the English version at http://www.newronika.it are protected. Does seem to me you could purchase one in Italy though.
Recent research in Oxford and elsewhere has shown that one type of brain stimulation in particular, called transcranial direct current stimulation or TDCS, can be used to improve language and maths abilities, memory, problem solving, attention, even movement.
Critically, this is not just helping to restore function in those with impaired abilities. TDCS can be used to enhance healthy people’s mental capacities. Indeed, most of the research so far has been carried out in healthy adults.
TDCS uses electrodes placed on the outside of the head to pass tiny currents across regions of the brain for 20 minutes or so. The currents of 1–2 mA make it easier for neurons in these brain regions to fire. It is thought that this enhances the making and strengthening of connections involved in learning and memory.
The technique is painless, all indications at the moment are that it is safe, and the effects can last over the long term.
That is why I’m now allowing Michael Weisend, who works at the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to hook my brain up to what’s essentially a 9-volt battery. He sticks the anode – the positive pole of the battery – to my temple, and the cathode to my left arm. “You’re going to feel a slight tingle,” he says, and warns me that if I remove an electrode and break the connection, the voltage passing through my brain will blind me for a good few seconds.
Weisend, who is working on a US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency programme to accelerate learning, has been using this form of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to cut the time it takes to train snipers. From the electrodes, a 2-milliamp current will run through the part of my brain associated with object recognition – an important skill when visually combing a scene for assailants.