[Update 3/18/19] Exciting news in the fight against Alzheimer’s! Dr. Tsai has a new lab. Tsai Laboratory
In the new study, researchers added acoustic stimulation that pulsed at the same frequency as the visual stimulation. And when mice — which were bred to develop Alzheimer’s-like symptoms — were exposed to both, researchers saw that the neurons in several of their brains’ key memory circuits chimed in and began humming along at exactly the same frequency. What came next was remarkable and unexpected, even to the authors of the study. In the wake of the sound and light sessions, an army of newly energized immune cells descended on several areas of the treated brains, including those most affected by dementia. Then they set to work with a vengeance on some neglected housecleaning.
LA Times https://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-alzheimers-brain-waves-20190315-story.html
The paper, Gamma frequency entrainment attenuates amyloid load and modifies microglia makes clear that the light-flickering affected the visual cortex, which makes sense, as the light reaches the brain through the eyes. But wait, thinks I, what about tACS (transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation)… haven’t I seen numerous papers implying the ability to ‘entrain’ brain waves with tACS? What if you could increase 40hz Gamma in other parts of the brain? (Google Scholar Search: transcranial alternating, entrain, gamma) But then I discovered that Radiolab just covered this exact story and it’s totally amazing! Really a must listen. So fun to hear the researcher’s amazement at this accidental (sort of) discovery! So what’s with the photo of the Foc.us v2 device set up for a 40hz tACS session? Just that…
Not tDCS, but TMS -Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, another form of TES – Transcranial Electric Stimulation, that is being used both clinically (FDA approved for the treatment of depression) and as a research tool. Unlike tDCS, TMS can be of sufficient power to cause neurons to fire– imagine a finger twitching in response the the activation of the TMS device.
The video describes an experiment where researchers are attempting to improve the quality of memory encoding using TMS. The point of sharing it with you on the blog is to point out how difficult this is in fact to do. tDCS for cognitive enhancement was what initially inspired this blog, and now these six years later, I’m not sure we’re any closer to having a useful tool for cognitive enhancement of any kind, though I am reasonably confident in stating that tDCS for the treatment of depression is at least worth trying. (Other areas of research I’m more optimistic about are tDCS and Aphasia, tDCS and Parkinson’s, and tDCS for the enhancement of physical training. But in all of these the jury is still out, as there is conflicting research results.)
Note as well in the video the elaborate set up for measuring the effect of TMS in the memory study. These are often standardized tests used throughout psychology research. Unfortunately they are often costly and complicated to use. Point being that any sort of DIY cognitive enhancement experiments need to consider how effects will be measured.
Robin is the founder of Caputron which is a distributor of tDCS and other TES devices. Here he demonstrates the Activadose II tDCS device. For reasons mentioned elsewhere on the blog, this is the device I recommend (this is an FDA approved – for Iontophoresis – device. I’d suggest the 2mA model with the 3×3 sponge set – this is closest to what most research studies use). Caputron provides DIYtDCS readers a generous discount (I also earn a referral fee) when you use discount code ‘diytdcs’ at checkout (for any product offered by Caputron). I interviewed Robin back in 2015 when he was first getting started. Check out that post here.
Shown here (from the video) working on the PlatoWork prototype. Note montage which according to the talk, would be focused on increasing creativity. In the video he calls the stimulation TES (Transcranial Electric Stimulation).
“Creative people somehow forget to turn off the spontaneous system while thye’re working on a task”.
Stimulation electrodes were positioned bilaterally over the frontal cortex (centered on EEG electrode locations F3 and F4) with a common electrodeover the apex (Cz).
But the PlatoScience FAQ clearly states they’re using tDCS.
At PlatoScience we use a version of neurostimulation called tDCS (Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation).
So here we have the first (to my knowledge) commercially available (€399) TES device designed specifically to enhance creativity. Interestingly, PlatoScience has a forum and test site (according to the video) where users can discuss their experience. The device is operated via smart phone.
Dr. Roy Hamilton of the University of Pennsylvania describes two types of noninvasive brain-stimulation technologies — transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) — and addresses their potential role in the assessment and treatment of FTD disorders. This webinar, presented on November 30, 2017, is the fifth in the AFTD Educational Webinar series.
In the spirit of fairness, I’m posting this musician’s experience of using the Halo Sport for guitar training. Unlike Mario and his piano experience, this fellow, TomboLP, ultimately found no added benefit, though in earlier videos (this is the part 5 of 5) he was excited by what he assumed were positive results.
This is the last video in my test of the Halo Sport. As I didn’t reach the goals I set for myself in the time allotted and feel that there were no gains that couldn’t be otherwise explained by practice, I have now returned the headset. Even though the product didn’t work out for me, I will say that the return process was very straightforward and hassle-free.
Wow! No less than Hank Green ( of the Vlog Brothers) covering tDCS on his SciShow Psych! He sounds a little skeptical! So we have that in common. I pretty much agree with Hank’s perspective, just a couple of thoughts I’d like to share.
Most companies (but not all) know better than to make claims about tDCS. They know they have to be careful making claims of benefits. So where you see a company making a claim, they are most likely basing the claim on legit science. But are the benefits replicable in your situation? Hank refers to the (science) literature as ‘messy’ and he’s right, with different labs coming to opposite conclusions using basically the same experiment protocols.
Hank characterizes the basic function of tDCS as being a training session for neurons. Over time, with repeated stimulation, those neurons will start to fire more. While this is a legitimate description of the approach some research takes, I think a better way to think of it is that tDCS makes it easier for neurons that are already inclined to fire, to do so. As in- you’re focused on a “Where’s Waldo” task, and with the proper stimulation, the task is easier to do, because the targeted neurons have less resistance to firing.
In the third section of his talk (around 30 minute mark), Dr. McConnell discusses an experiment they are working on that uses EEG to monitor sleep, and according to their protocol, turn on a TES device (tACS-like) in order to induce slow wave EEG activity. The practical application is improved memory consolidation in Alzheimer’s patients. Very interesting!
Published on May 14, 2017 Neurology Grand Rounds 3 May 2017 – Transcranial Electrical Stimulation: A Stimulating Discussion of Current Research.
Brice McConnell, MD, PhD
University of Colorado
If you follow the blog you’ll know I’m not savvy enough in the ways of electronics to know a well-constructed DIY circuit when I see it. I’ve generally depended on the Reddit crowd to sort through the pros and cons of DIY tDCS circuit design. Now that there are a handful of professionally developed and readily available devices on the market, I’m not seeing as many DIY projects, but here’s a couple that popped up on Youtube in the last week or so.