If you’ve been following along then most of what’s discussed in this May, 2018 lecture won’t surprise you, but it’s nicely put together and I would say, emphasizes the validation of applying stimulation while ‘doing something’ (Functional Targeting). The idea being that the stimulation then amplifies the activity of the neurons involved in the task. Though it does beg the question, What would be an appropriate task to involve a patient with in the treatment of depression? I think it’s important to note that most of what is discussed, in terms of any affects tDCS may have, remain hypothetical!
The 2019 joint meeting of Neuromodulation:The Science and NYC Neuromodulation is about to start and a page devoted to abstracts has been published. It will be updated as more info becomes available. Want a look into the future of neurostimulation? Here it is!
Dr. Brent Williams of SpeakWisdom recently published an article on the new LIFTiD tDCS device, How to Use the LIFTiD Headset for Depression Relief. The device (which is available at Caputron) has yet to be extensively reviewed but its main advantage, defined electrode placement, could also be seen as a weakness.
Focus has posted a new page on their site which directs new users to show caution in their use of DIY tDCS. Focus goes so far as to caution people under the age of 18 not to try it.
If you are under 18 you should stop here. tDCS is not suitable for children and should not be used. This is because your brain is still developing and you don’t need to mess with its neuroplasticity.
The page goes on to list the known risks and a few benefits. Interestingly, it does not mention depression. I would have to imagine due to the possibility of crossing that nebulous regulatory line around ‘medical devices’.
Focus is, as I understand it, in the midst of fulfilling orders for their GoFlow device. You can read a full review of the GoFlow on SpeakWisdom, the (primarily) tDCS-related site authored by Dr. Brent Williams. Go Flow Pro, Nice Brain Stimulation Kit!
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.
I had the pleasure of discussing tDCS with article-author Amy Dockser Marcus. She’s put together a very clear picture of where we’re at with DIY tDCS at the moment. I agree that Brent Williams is a great example of someone in the DIY community lighting the way towards safe and ethical home-use of tDCS.
I draw attention to this section of the article because it will be of special interest to regular readers. I find it very interesting to note that this letter addressed to “members of the DIY tDCS community” from concerned researchers happens to be under review for publication a few weeks prior to the FDA Workshop that will address the use of “non-invasive brain stimulation medical devices” (emphasis mine). Unless representatives from the likes of Focus, Thync or Halo Neuroscience show up to represent their devices, I think it very unlikely that the ‘DIY’ community will be represented (though Thync is certainly positioned apart from the DIY community there are obvious overlaps in interest). I signed up for the webcast. Assuming the webcast software actually works, I hope to observe a reasonable discussion between intelligent persons that finds nothing of note to be alarmed about.
Still, Dr. Hamilton believes some home users may not fully recognize that professional research in the field is largely done in people with brains “whose network has been altered and whose functions have been disturbed by or changed by injury.” Promising data gathered about neurostimulation on someone who has had a stroke, for instance, doesn’t necessarily apply to someone with “a normal intact system,” he says.
Researchers also haven’t studied possible long-term impacts of repeated use of tDCS by healthy people. There is some preliminary research raising potential concerns that when neurostimulation improves one brain function, there can be losses in other areas. Assessing the risks and benefits of the technology may differ depending on whether someone is healthy or ill.
Dr. Hamilton is one of a group of scientists and clinicians working with tDCS for medical applications who have written a letter aimed at members of the DIY tDCS community that raises some of their concerns. The letter is under review for publication by an academic journal.
I would only add that while Dr. Hamilton’s work with tDCS for the most part centers around aphasia (stroke) and pain, my sense of tDCS studies coming out of the science community is that it’s trending towards research with healthy individuals.
Brent Williams of SpeakWisdom shares his thoughts on the Foc.us v2 device along with his recommendations for electrodes.
The V2 Brain Stimulation Device
First, you will need a foc.us V2 stimulator device. They currently sell for about $199 and with current firmware are far beyond any of their competition in terms of versatility, capability, portability, etc. I won’t take time here to list all of the MANY things the V2 can do, but suffice it to say that manufacturers of “professional grade” tDCS, tACS, etc. equipment are probably nervous about where foc.us is driving prices and capabilities! In my opinion, the V2 is THE brain stimulation device to buy at its price point.
Super Specific Devices has released a tDCS device that might be just right for that DIY tDCS person on your holiday shopping list (perhaps yourself!) The new tDCS device is a well-built variant of a DIY tDCS design that has floated around the internet for about two years now.
The Super Specific Devices (SSD) device offers solid performance, based on a 9 volt battery, and provides a feature I consider nearly essential – a meter that allows you to verify the current being delivered during your tDCS session. That is coupled with a potentiometer (dial) that allows you to vary current level, making it easy to set 1, 1.5, or 2 mA or anywhere in between. The user can also gently ramp current up and down using the dial – so discomfort and phosphenes are reduced or eliminated.
Brent Williams of SpeakWisdom just published a checklist for DIY tDCSers. Links at bottom to full list.
DIY tDCS Safety Standards
As a potential or current do-it-yourself tDCS user I agree to the following:
1. I will, if reasonably possible, seek out a medical professional for tDCS advice, treatments and follow-up.
2. If I have cranial scar tissue, an implant, or other unusual medical condition, I will seek clearance from my doctor before using tDCS. If I have a seizure disorder I will refrain from using tDCS or use it only under direct supervision of qualified medical personnel.
3. I will not, under any circumstances, directly connect a battery to my head. I understand that I could greatly exceed the maximum 2 mA current limit used by tDCS researchers, possibly harming myself in the process.
Williams is one of its leaders. The treatments have made a huge difference in his life, he says. He retains more information from the tedious journal articles he has to read for work, and he feels more creative. On his blog, SpeakWisdom, he posts technically detailed reviews of stimulation devices and cheerfully gives advice to anyone considering trying it for the first time. He’s got lots of company. A subreddit devoted to the practice has nearly 4,000 subscribers who actively follow the scientific research and share tips on where to place the electrodes on your head if, say, you’re depressed, too impulsive, or just want to amp up your creativity.
Williams is spreading the brain-zapping idea closer to home too. He has built brain stimulators for his wife (he couldn’t keep the secret very long) and several friends and acquaintances. All in all, he has persuaded at least a dozen people to give it a try. One says she’s gone off antidepressants for the first time in 20 years. Another says brain stimulation is helping him get his ADD under control. Several ambitious middle-aged professionals say the devices have boosted their memory and focus.
Dr. Brent Williams of Speak Wisdom recently published an article, ‘Roadmap to tDCS Success’ which outlines his perspective on using tDCS. (Link at bottom to full article.)
This article is designed to provide a roadmap to successful and safe use of tDCS and so points to a number of references that should be reviewed before any attempt at using tDCS is made. If you will carefully examine the items listed below, you will be much better informed as you make decisions about tDCS and its appropriateness for you and your situation.
Brent Williams shares his vision for the future of tDCS…
I have been reading studies, attending training, experimenting with, and writing about transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) for about two years now. Needless to say, I am enthusiastic about what tDCS can do for many people who use it for depression, chronic pain, enhanced creativity, and memory. It may also may have positive effect for other important conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s – there are certainly studies that show that to be the case.
Given that it has positive effect on many who try it, it could improve the quality of life of millions of people around the world. All of this without drugs, without the cost of drugs, and with no significant side-effects.
With all the great things I’ve learned about tDCS, I thought I’d share a little of my tDCS Wish List for the next five years:
In The Next Five Years I Wish That:
every appropriate medical practitioner (and counselor) would at least become aware of tDCS. A treatment this good, this simple, this safe, with so much positive effect should not be overlooked. It should be a tool in the kit of considered-treatments for every practitioner
www.biocurrentkit.com has just started offering a battery operated 1 to 2 mA kit that is offered not as a tDCS device (tDCS doesn’t even appear in their instruction sheet and barely on the web site), but as a regulated very low current DC supply. What you do with it is up to you. Biocurrent sent me an evaluation unit to dig into and I have to say, I’m impressed with the simplicity of the kit – and that it does exactly what Biocurrent says it will do – supply 1, 1.5, or 2 mA current.