Lifehacker UK spoke with Nick Davis, a lecturer in psychology at Swansea University. We began by asking whether there is any actual evidence that tDCS can have a beneficial effect on its users:
There is relatively little evidence at the moment that tDCS can lead to improvement in real-world activities. The closest we have got so far is in military contexts like spotting threats such as snipers. Researchers have used immersive video games to train soldiers to respond when they see something that might be a threat – tDCS seems to make people a little better.
With regards to the potential dangers of using these devices outside of a proper clinical environment, Davis continued:
In my lab, the major concern I have is that I might trigger a seizure. A seizure results from over-excitable brain circuits, so adding more excitability with tDCS could be dangerous. I would not allow anyone to take part in my experiments if they have a family history of epilepsy, or if they have had excessive amounts of drink or drugs in the day before the experiment as these are also risk factors.
I am also worried that younger people, whose brains is still developing, might also be using tDCS without proper supervision. There are too many unknown factors in how tDCS affects the brain for it to be safe for unsupervised use, and I think we should be very cautious even in research labs.