Fidel Vila-Rodriguez, an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, is exploring the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation combined with yoga, to see if it can be used to treat depression.
From an email press release received 9/1/16.
To help with electrode positioning we have updated a 3d model head with the 10/20 electrode placements. Click the position name e.g. F3, and it will appear on the head. You will still need to translate this to your own head but we hope it helps. (Move the model around with your mouse.)
We are also now selling a version of Go Flow Pro that includes our 1020 position cap instead of the headband. It includes everything you need to get started.
Eliza Strickland covered the HaloNeuro tDCS device. This clip shares my hopes about the Halo… that sports serves as a gateway until they can get established. IMO we need a device manufacturer with deep pockets who can satisfy the research and regulation requirements to make tDCS (or any other form of Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation – NIBS, that is effective) mainstream.
While the authorities dither, Halo will do its best to slip into the mainstream. And athletes are just the first customers targeted by this ambitious company. In South Carolina, a neurologist is currently testing the Halo with stroke patients to see if stimulating the motor cortex speeds up rehab. Chao envisions a whole range of Halo products offering consumers different kinds of mental boosts. “What if you want to learn Chinese and we stimulate the language center?” he says. “What if we stimulate the memory center and pair that with brain-training games?”
No mention of tDCS in his journey to find relief from severe depression, but some new to me and interesting information about treating his depression with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. Especially interesting is that a genome test recommended by his psychiatrist led to the awareness that many of the drugs typically used to treat depression would most likely be overwhelming to his system. Also that his insurer, Anthem Blue Cross (through the ACA, Obamacare) covered his TMS treatment. Links below to full article.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS, is a depression treatment that was approved by the FDA in 2008. It involves placing a magnetic coil on the patient’s head, and stimulating neurons in a specific part of the brain known to be underactive in depression (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex). Best of all, it has very few side effects: only some uncomfortable tapping on the head where treatment is applied. There are none of the standard side effects we’ve come to associate with medications.
Dr. Williams at SpeakWisdom takes a look at the new focus electrodes as well as new Caputron Amrex-style electrodes. Electrode Wars! (Well Not Quite)
foc.us (famous for the foc.us V2 brain stimulation device and the new Go Flow tDCS device) is just releasing a new sponge electrode system for the V2 and Go Flow that is very interesting! It consists of a rubber-like shell (about 2×2) and sponges that when inserted result in a 1.25 x 1.25 inch sponge contact area. To connect to the foc.us sponge electrodes, you need a special V2/Go Flow cable that attaches magnetically to the electrode shell. That means the problem of having an electrode jerked off of your head should you become tangled somehow goes away. This is a vastly better connection technology than the banana plug and socket used by many manufactures.
Something remarkable comes of staring the future deep in the eyes and challenging everything that it seems to promise.
Virtual Futures | Conference & Salon Events on the Convergence of Art, Science, Technology, Philosophy & Culture | Originally based at the University of Warwick
You can watch the entire event as one clip, but I very much like how they have it snipped up into a playlist you can pick and choose from. Here are examples from each of the speakers. Full Playlist.
Andrew certainly seems like someone I should interview for the podcast!
From CNN Money This guy wears a helmet to make his brain more productive
From 2014 DIY Brain Hacking with Andrew Vladimirov Speaker Preview of Anticipating 2025
And a couple of short clips from the Virtual Future Salon, February 2016
What Andrew is suggesting in this next clip is pretty wild. Basically, that he wants neurostimulation to operate in the brain at the molecular level, similar to how drugs work. Target a receptor site with a unique waveform?!!!
If you’re a Twitter person, follow along here: https://twitter.com/DIYtDCS where I cover more advanced tDCS-related news.
In new work Jonides in presenting at the CNS conference, he and colleagues have found that tDCS has a robust effect on working memory, with enhancements lasting over a course of months. “Previous research has been equivocal about whether tDCS enhances training, and there have been no long-term investigations of how long that training effect lasts,” Jonides says.
In the new study, 62 participants randomly received tDCS stimulation to either the right or left prefrontal cortex or received sham stimulation while performing a visuospatial working memory task. After 7 training sessions, those who received the tDCS stimulation had increased working memory capabilities, even several months after completing their training. They also found that those who receive stimulation on the right prefrontal cortex had selective ability to transfer the working memory to non-trained tasks.
I will definitely be following up on this one. Neuroscientists working to test brain training claims 4/5/16
Here, we review the recent research that has explored the effects of tDCS on WM (working memory) in healthy young adults, older adults, and patient populations. We also discuss several recent meta-analyses that have examined the efficacy of tDCS as a WM intervention. While a majority of the papers reviewed suggest that tDCS can modulate WM, this effect is highly inconsistent. These seemingly conflicting results may be driven by differences in study design, tDCS protocol, or inter-individual differences.
Meta research paper looks years of tDCS working memory research. Interesting and useful, in the list of papers they cite they add (highlighted) the particular significance of that paper. Uncertainty and Promise: the Effects of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation on Working Memory 4/5/16
Those advantages appeal to the DIY users as well. On Reddit’s tDCS community, many anonymous users describe using the technique to treat mental disorders, including depression and anxiety. Alexander Mark is one of them. A 63-year-old Michigan resident, he says, “I am afflicted with Bipolar Disorder II, and learned about tDCS in an effort to find a way to relieve myself of the severe depression that often comes with the illness.” He began trying it when his medication proved ineffective (though that’s no longer the case), and he’s only had a single negative experience—when he misplaced an electrode. (He currently uses the Chattanooga Ionto iontophoresis system, which sells for about $700 through third-party merchants on Amazon.)
Article also discusses a Direct To Consumer tDCS device that didn’t do so well in their tests. The promise and peril of DIY electrical brain stimulation By Anna Denejkina 4/10/16
I would argue that the fine tradition of self-experimentation can be harnessed, if structures are created that allow at-home users to contribute their experiences to a common store of knowledge. At present online sharing of tDCS experiences is haphazard, and is restricted to the more anarchic fringes of the internet. However, those communities are generating potentially valuable information, which could be of great interest to researchers and to manufacturers. At-home and DIY users frequently stretch the limits of protocols, delivering higher current for greater amounts of time.17 Bringing at-home users into the fold will provide useful information about safe and unsafe protocols, and will generate important information about the milder side-effects of tDCS that are thought to be under-reported by researchers
In his paper The regulation of consumer tDCS: engaging a community of creative self-experimenters, Nick Davis makes the case that there is the potential for home-use DIY users to contribute to our understanding of tDCS. 4/5/16
Tyler, who co-founded Thync and recently returned to academia as an associate professor at Arizona State University, says such concerns are legitimate. Yet he is certain that they can be overcome and that medical-grade brain devices will one day be commonplace and able to, for example, relieve the pain of migraines or treat debilitating neurological conditions.
“Yes, a lot more work still needs to be done,” he said. “But the technology holds tremendous promise. It’s not just about us saying we’re going to stimulate the nerves so you can chill.”
Mostly about the Thync (not tDCS) device. Note that Jamie Tyler, who was a co-founder and lead scientist at Thync, has returned to academia (and I’ll hazard a guess, to his first love, transcranial pulsed ultrasound stimulation). Brain-zapping gadgets promise to make you a better you — smarter, stronger, even happier. 3/29/16
Watch the CTV news story.
Dr. Alexander Thiel, director of the Comprehensive Stroke Centre at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital, said the TDCS treatments have been studied before, but what’s special about the study out of Oxford is that it suggests the treatment may be causing structural changes in the brain that contribute to the patient’s recovery.
“This is important because it could either indicate that some parts of these nerve cells are able to regenerate, or these nerve cells try to form alternative pathways to reroute the traffic in the brain to a different route from the one that has been destroyed by the stroke,” he told CTV News.
Stroke patients in Canada can’t get TDCS therapy outside of a research study. But with several studies underway around the world, scientists hope they’ll be able to quickly confirm that brain stimulation has the power to accelerate stroke recovery.
Full article: Electrical brain stimulation can help recovery from stroke: study
Study: Ipsilesional anodal tDCS enhances the functional benefits of rehabilitation in patients after stroke
Study author: Charlotte Stagg
Marom Bikson (no less!) demonstrating depression montage using the Soterix EasyStrap.
tDCS montage for depression multi-center trial. EasyStrap nicely secures rivet electrodes without obscuring contact. pic.twitter.com/IyUajrKqlr
— Marom Bikson (@MaromBikson) March 17, 2016
Another view of tDCS depression montage by EasyStrap. Note ruler, even electrode contact and access for adjustment. pic.twitter.com/Nb0GaPXX6c
— Marom Bikson (@MaromBikson) March 17, 2016
From a recent Marom Bikson slide deck (pdf).
Wait! There’s a Science Daily version.
Brain boost: Research to improve memory through electricity?
More important, the researchers identified the actual molecular trigger behind the bolstered memory and plasticity–increased production of BDNF, a protein essential to brain growth. BDNF, which stands for “brain-derived neurotrophic factor,” is synthesized naturally by neurons and is crucial to neuronal development and specialization.
“While the technique and behavioral effects of tDCS are not new,” said ONR Global Associate Director Dr. Monique Beaudoin, “Dr. Grassi’s work is the first to describe BDNF as a mechanism for the behavioral changes that occur after tDCS treatment. This is an exciting and growing research area of great interest to ONR.”
The research is sponsored by the Office of Naval Research!
What he said!
Podda, M. V. et al. Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation boosts synaptic plasticity and memory in mice via epigenetic regulation of Bdnf expression. Sci. Rep. 6, 22180; doi: 10.1038/srep22180 (2016).
I won’t even pretend to understand this paper at this point, but it’s unique enough that I want to encourage people to have a look. That said… what I think it’s saying is that (in mice) hippocampal tDCS creates a chain reaction that results in increased brain plasticity, i.e. increased neuronal connection which in this case is responsible for increased performance in a memory task. (Not more neurotransmitters.)
But this paper suggests the actual mechanism for how this is happening.
We hypothesized that anodal tDCS induced membrane depolarization mimicking neuronal activation and triggered epigenetic changes at Bdnf, thus favoring its transcription.
All together these results indicate that Bdnf expression in the hippocampus is induced by anodal tDCS and that enhanced acetylation at Bdnf promoter I is likely responsible for such effect.
Collectively, these data suggest that anodal tDCS induced epigenetic changes at Bdnf promoters likely relying on a mechanism involving CREB activation, CBP recruitment and H3K9 acetylation.
These results strongly support our hypothesis that increased histone acetylation promoting Bdnf transcription plays a major role in anodal tDCS-induced enhancement of synaptic plasticity.
Update 2/29/16. Halo Neuroscience launched the Halo Sport via ProductHunt. Details of the device are discussed in the comment section and includes input from CEO Daniel Chao and CTO Brett Wingeier. In a Medium article industrial designer Matty Martin talks about the challenges developing the Halo Sport. And, though not (yet anyway) peer reviewed, Halo Neuroscience has published the results of a few studies they’ve completed with the Halo Sport. Especially I found interesting Bihemispheric Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation with Halo Neurostimulation System Over Primary Motor Cortex Enhances Fine Motor Skills Learning in a Complex Hand Configuration Task (pdf).
We looked at Halo Neuroscience back in 2012, Halo Neuroscience – Amol Sarva, and knew they’d been testing a device for the last year. Today they announced the release of the Halo Sport which uses ‘neuropriming’ to increase athletic performance. At $549 it’s the most expensive neuro-device to come to market. It seems the target buyer is a high-end athlete.
Clicking on the get button takes you to two offers:
HALO SPORT PRO:
Halo Sport Pro is part of a service package designed for elite teams, trainers, and performance organizations.
HALO CHAMPIONS PROGRAM:
LIMITED CONSUMER RELEASE
Train like the pros. Be the first to pre-order Halo Sport and receive $200 off. Ships Fall 2016.
So I guess we’re in buzz-building mode, and the device will become available for anyone in the fall at around $349.
Follows is a clip from today’s Newsweek article. Click through to full story below.
As intriguing as the sports applications are, they only hint at what Halo might become. Chao says he will seek FDA approval to market Halo’s device as a way to help stroke victims recover their physical capabilities. And then, he says, a different version of Halo, which would send pulses into another part of the brain, will be able to improve memory and mental processing, giving users an advantage at work or school. At one point, he tells me some of Halo’s tests show it can “roll back cognitive aging by 25 years.” (He later seems to regret saying that, explaining that he prefers to stay focused on the sports applications.)
We’ve covered Dr. Adam Gazzaley director of the Gazzaley Lab at UCSF previously so I was excited to see he was being interviewed for one of my favorite podcasts, ShrinkrapRadio by Dr. David Van Nuys. I’m a big fan of Dr. Dave and have been enjoying his interviews with top psychologists for years. (Especially those with Jungian analysts.) I’ve clipped an excerpt of the interview that deals directly with tDCS and brain stimulation below but I highly recommend checking out the entire episode as it provides an excellent framework for understanding the notion of brain training using technology including video games designed specifically to enhance memory and cognition.
In this clip Dr. Gazzaley lays out what clearly is the near-future of non-invasive brain stimulation… You’re playing a video game that has been optimized to enhance working memory (for example). At the same time your EEG is being monitored for brain activity. According to the EEG data, tDCS (tACS, tRNS etc) is activated for the purpose of enhancing activity in that region of your brain. As your game accuracy increases, the game adapts to increase difficulty to an optimum training level. Loop!
Here’s a 2 minute clip from Dr. Dave’s interview with Adam Gazzaley
Dr. Gazzaley’s (@ co-founder with @) company, Akili (@), just announced (1/22/16) $30.5 million in funding. Interesting, Akili is part of the PureTech (@) family of companies we covered recently (Tal Medical).
A few of Dr. Gazzaley’s papers you might find interesting.
Video game training enhances cognitive control in older adults Nature (pdf)
Effects of noninvasive brain stimulation on cognitive function in healthy aging and Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. (pdf)
Dr Gazzaley’s (Nov 2015) Ted Talk
All roads LFMS lead to the Harvard Low Field Magnetic Stimulation Lab. But please follow along with what led me here in the story below.
I came across Low Field Magnetic Stimulation, or LFMS, in a recent panel talk from SXSW: Superbugs, Magnets & More: Medicine’s Comeback Kids – SXSW Interactive 2015. The conversation is particularly interesting considering panelist Dr. Bennett Shapiro’s background. At Merck he led research that developed over 25 drugs and vaccines. (The panel touches on magnets, phage therapy and fecal transplants, for example.)
Dr. Shapiro’s company (he is the co-founder and non-executive director), Pure Tech Health created Tal Medical, to develop an LFMS treatment/device.
This is most likely the nexus for looking into LFMS in the first place:
Anecdotal reports have suggested mood improvement in patients with bipolar disorder immediately after they underwent an echo-planar magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (EP-MRSI)… Low-Field Magnetic Stimulation in Bipolar Depression Using an MRI-Based Stimulator (Found on the Tal Medical publications page.)
The panel discusses TMS, which has recently been approved by the FDA for treatment of depression. But Dr. Shapiro goes on to discuss LFMS, which (to my readers anyway) is especially interesting because it uses so little power to achieve its effects. (As opposed to TMS which is too complicated and powerful to ever become part of the DIY community. Never say never!)
In 2013, Tal received initial proof-of-concept data from a randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled trial in patients with major depressive and bipolar disorders conducted by McLean Hospital, a leading psychiatric research hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School. In the study, a single 20-minute treatment demonstrated rapid onset of action, substantial effect size, and a strong safety profile. Given this unique, rapid effect of LFMS treatment, the National Institute of Mental Health has selected LFMS for a multi-site clinical trial. The trial is examining the efficacy and durability of the treatment over an extended period of time in patients with major depressive disorder.
Researching possible patents led to Michael Rohan, Ph.D. and the Harvard Low Field Magnetic Stimulation Lab. I assume there is a partnership between the Harvard Lab, McLean Hospital and Tal Medical, though I could not find any formal announcement. Click through the lab link to do a deeper dive into ongoing research they are presently involved with, including clinical trials.
Last month, the FDA held a public workshop on this topic. (I spoke on one of the panels, though I have no financial interests in these products.) Based on the discussion paper released ahead of the workshop, it seems that the agency intends to regulate these devices—it just hasn’t quite figured out how to do so. But although the FDA may have the expertise to regulate these devices, the idiosyncrasies of medical device law—namely, the complications regarding “intended use” claims—may not make this the best option, especially given the recent entrance to the market of devices that make no claims at all and instead bill themselves as “direct current sources.” The situation may require a novel solution—such as collaboration between the FDA and CPSC or the involvement of a third party, such as the National Academy of Medicine—to ensure the construction of a coherent framework that best encompasses devices on the market now and anticipates the complex issues that may arise in the future.