Medical Batteries – The History of Electrotherapy

Update 2/17/17 BBC The strange Victorian fashion of self-electrification

If you’ve been following along very closely you may recall that podcast episode #6 guest Anna Wexler mentioned in passing that she had been researching Ye Olde practice of therapeutically applying current to various parts of the body. Well, an early version of a new paper of hers landed the other day: Recurrent themes in the history of the home use of electrical stimulation: Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and the medical battery (1870–1920). It’s behind a paywall but here are some highlights.

  • Although the home use of tDCS is often referred to as a novel phenomenon, in reality the late nineteenth and early twentieth century saw a proliferation of electrical stimulation devices for home use.
  • In particular, the use of a portable electrotherapy device known as the “medical battery” bears a number of striking similarities to the modern-day use of tDCS.
  • Many features related to the home use tDCS—a do-it-yourself movement, anti-medical establishment themes, conflicts between lay and professional usage—are a repetition of themes that occurred a century ago with regard to the medical battery.
  • A number of features seem to be unique to the present, such as the dominant discourse about risk and safety, the division between cranial and non-cranial stimulation, and utilization for cognitive enhancement purposes.
  • Viewed in historical context, the contemporary use of electrical stimulation at home is not unusual, but rather the latest wave in a series of ongoing attempts by lay individuals to utilize electricity for therapeutic purposes.

Lots of ‘medical battery’ patents here.
And a ton of wonderful images to be found in books in Google’s digitized library.
Most of these came from a single book!


Another DIY tDCS Video

Hard to imagine how he’d have learned enough about tDCS to build a device, but have gotten the (typical) montage so wrong. Placing the cathode over left DLPFC and anode over right orbital is exactly the opposite of what you’ll find in most studies related to both depression and working memory. He doesn’t go into how he’s constructed his electrodes at all. Anecdotally, it is interesting that the reverse montage made him feel angry and depressed.


DIY tDCS Start Here


New to DIYtDCS? This is the ‘start here’ collection of articles and posts.

  1. DIYtDCS Feed, last 50 articles
  2. My Twitter feed focuses on breaking tDCS research. @DIYtDCS
  3. My Reddit account, where it’s okay to explore the fringes. DIYtDCS
  4. Recommended device? (29V / 2mA model. Promo code ‘diytdcs’ for discount)
  5. Best instruction video for C3/Motorcortex & F3/DLPFC electrode placement.
  6. Is this (tDCS for depression in pregnancy) the first ‘killer app’?
  7. Cognitive Enhancement with Noninvasive Brain Stimulation (video) Roy Hamilton MD
  8. Simple Montage list with electrode placement and research sources.
  9. Marom Bikson & Peter Toshev ‘Your Electric Pharmacy‘ (pdf excellent overview/intro).
  10. My podcast interviews, deep dives into tDCS with key players (iTunes link)
  11. tDCS SubReddit is where the action is. Now with tDCS FAQ!
  12. Dr. Brent Williams’ DIY device and protocol.
  13. Zap your brain into the zone: Fast track to pure focus
  14. Better Living Through Electrochemistry
  15. Clinical tDCS trials seek volunteers. All. Search. (Example: “tDCS AND Los Angeles”)
  16. Neuroscience: Brain buzz Nature Magazine
  17. DLPFC / F3 Locator (you’ll need a tape measure with Centimeters)
  18. 3d tDCS Placements Guide Model
  19. NEW! Searchable database of tDCS studies
  20. 10–20 international system
  21. Kadosh The Stimulated Brain: Cognitive Enhancement Using NIBS

U of Penn [Unverified] Seeks Input From DIYtDCS Community.

This just came in as a comment, I’m reposting as a post. I don’t know the author and have not corresponded with them as of yet. I can confirm that the originating email address has a footprint.


You are being invited to participate in a research study conducted by
the University of Pennsylvania. Your participation is voluntary which
means you can choose whether or not you want to participate. 

The Laboratory of Cognition and Neural Stimulation at the University of
Pennsylvania is involved in research using transcranial direct current
stimulation (tDCS). In recent years this technology has increased in
popularity, and evidence suggests that some individuals may be
constructing their own stimulators for personal use. We are interested
in examining the reasons behind this. Please answer the questions below,
and email them to to give us insight into why people
make their own tDCS machines.


1.	Where did you first learn about tDCS?
2.	Have you built your own tDCS machine?
3.	Where did you get the information to build the machine?
4.	Why did you want to try brain stimulation?
5.	How long have you been using tDCS?
6.	What were your experiences with this technology?
7.	Did you ever experience any side-effects?

The research team may use information about you collected from your
responses. By completing the questionnaire, you are giving your consent
to participate in this study. Once you email us, your responses are not
considered confidential since emails do not protect confidentiality.  


Research Specialist
Laboratory of Cognition and Neural Stimulation
University of Pennsylvania

tDCS Transcranial Stimulation Kit

Not from me, but yes you can add one to your cart!

tDCS Transcranial Stimulation Kit


Quick Overview

The stimulator is specifically designed for Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) and ensures a safe and comfortable treatment.

Included items
-tDCS stimulator 0.5 – 2.0 mA
-1x 5x5cm sponge electrode with conductive rubber inset
-1x 5x7cm sponge electrode with conductive rubber inset
-1x 7x10cm sponge electrode with conductive rubber inset
-Electrode cables
-Fastening straps for easy electrode positioning

tDCS Stimulator

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  • tDCS Stimulator
  • Sponge electrodes with conductive rubber insets (3)
  • Electrode Cable
  • Velcro fastening straps (3)