Has the brain-zap backlash begun? | New Scientist

I think of Vincent Walsh as the most skeptical of the tDCS researchers. You can get a clear understanding of his doubts and concerns in this video from the Davis Summit on tDCS from 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fz7r8VDV4o

However, Vincent Walsh, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London, is less convinced. “This is an important paper,” he says, especially because it casts doubt on the aspect of this research that until now had been assumed to be the most robust – the physiology.
“In terms of cognition, which is the other aspect that people make claims about, tDCS is massively hyped. The danger is that people have been promised better memories, better reading, better maths, increased intelligence‚Ķ you name it. The effects are small, short lasting, and no substantial claims have been replicated across laboratories. This paper is hopefully the beginning of a counterweight to all the bullshit.”

via Has the brain-zap backlash begun? – health – 28 November 2014 – New Scientist.

4 thoughts on “Has the brain-zap backlash begun? | New Scientist

  1. What do you think of this paper? It seems hard to believe, considering the immense weight of evidence that certainly seems to be pointing the other way, and the many researchers who are very anti-DIY tDCS and yet solidly behind their findings. I never believed the wilder claims for cognitive enhancement but was very hopeful for the mental health side of the spectrum, especially considering the remarkable testimonials from people with severe mental illness and chronic pain, using the crude devices that are currently available. Dr. Walsh seems almost vindictive in his dismissal of tDCS here – quite surprising considering that the goal of researchers is to treat devastating mental and physical disorders, not cognitive enhancement.

    • Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not really invested either way, just along for the ride which has been fascinating. Here’s what @MaromBikson tweeted the other day

      “Has the brain-zap backlash begun?” Of course not. Field is calibrating to focus on optimization and > effect sizes.

      A few weeks ago he commented on the trials he did in conjunction with the device Thync is develping…

      @DIYtDCS CCNY completed 90 subject 6-week (5 session per week) trial using Thync and Soterix tech. Exciting details and results coming soon.

      ‘Exciting details and results’ sounds to me like they probably had some consistent behavior modification. Probably he’s going to talk about it at the NYC Neuromodulation 2015 conference.

      • I looked into the article more and apparently the studies concerned only a subset of motor skills enhancement. It was a distinction the article failed to make. Makes for good clickbait, I guess.

        To be honest, it was the tone that bothered me the most. I don’t know why Dr. Walsh had to use the word “bullshit” to describe tDCS when he must know how desperate many people are for any effective treatment for their mental or physical pain. Unfortunately, having suffered from mental illness for 20 years, I know how easy it is for non-sufferers to brush it off, even doctors. I am one of the lucky ones who has found effective treatment. When I was at my worst, it was at times like a waking nightmare.

        I really admire Dr. Bikson, he seems to be motivated from a position of compassion and is very thorough and comprehensive in his research. He had some kind words for me during a brief online exchange we had.

        • Dr. Walsh (you can see where he’s coming from in his Davis talk linked to above) seems intent on placing himself as the tDCS skeptic. But I think it’s more or less all the claims for potential cognitive enhancement that he takes exception to.
          Thanks for stopping by Charles!

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