Dr. Vince Clark University of New Mexico

[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).

Where To Find More Information

I’m calling this the deep data page. I’ll collect links to collections of papers and abstracts that cover tDCS. There is really, a LOT, of information out there and lots more is on the way. I’ll update this page as I come across more articles. If you have a favorite tDCS stash, please share it in the comments.

Vincent Walsh TMS > tDCS & Migraine

Towards the end of the video (The Daily Telegraph 2008) Professor Vincent Walsh, (now of University of California Davis) discusses tDCS and its potential for therapeutic use. Especially of interest is the information on migraine headaches:

So, some migraines are caused by having too much activity in the visual brain area, and some are by having too little activity. And we hope that this can balance out, reverse that relative inactivity in the brain.

Could this imply that one person’s migraine could be mitigated with Cathodal (-) tdcs while another’s might benefit from Anodal (+) application of tDCS? And conversely, does it imply that improper stimulation would lead to MORE migraines?

If I suffered from migraines and wanted to test tDCS, here’s where I’d start:
Check the FisherWallace  Find A Doctor search page for an electrotherapist in your area.
If they will treat you for migraine, try a few sessions. If it works, and your doctor will authorize a purchase, you can buy your own unit (for $700). A FisherWallace device may qualify for insurance coverage.

Alternately, I would monitor the ClinicalTrials.gov site and keep an eye out for new studies testing tDCS for migraine. And lastly, I would contact manufacturers of other tDCS devices and ask if they knew of any electrotherapy practitioners in your area working with migraine. Here’s my short list of manufacturers to contact:

  • Soterix Medical: Are on the cutting edge of all things tDCS and in some of their literature I have seen them mention migraine.
  • MagStim: Another medical-level producer, although I’m not sure these devices are approved for use in the U.S. yet.
  • Alpha-Stim: While they don’t advertize the use of their device for migraine, they do offer many testimonials from people who state they found it beneficial. I have not seen this company associated with any scientific studies or papers.

Anthony Lee Update

Anthony Lee shared the results of his most recent tDCS experiments on Reddit the other night (9/8/12). Using the Cambridge Brain Science Challenge (a set of four tests), he charted his scores over a two month period, comparing results with and without tDCS applied. Check out the video, and if you have questions for Anthony, post them to his Reddit thread.

Induction of visual dream reports after transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCs) during Stage 2 sleep – JAKOBSON – 2012 – Journal of Sleep Research

This is encouraging because a previous study showed minimal effect on dreaming using tDCS.

In both experiments a significantly greater number of imagery reports were found on awakening after tDCs (cathodal–frontal, anodal–parietal), compared to the blank control conditions. However, in Experiment 2 the frequency of imagery reports from the tDCs (cathodal–frontal, anodal–parietal) was not significantly different from the other two tDC conditions, suggesting a non-specific effect of tDCs. Overall, it was concluded that tDCs (cathodal–frontal, anodal–parietal) increased the frequency of dream reports with visual imagery, possibly via a general arousing effect and/or recreating specific cortical neural activity involved in dreaming.

via Induction of visual dream reports after transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCs) during Stage 2 sleep – JAKOBSON – 2012 – Journal of Sleep Research – Wiley Online Library. Full pdf.

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.