Katie, 23, has suffered from anxiety and depression since she was 18. When her boyfriend Lee told her about transcranial directcurrent stimulation (tDCS), a form of neurostimulation which involves administering a low level of electrical current to the brain, she was sceptical. But Lee had heard that it could help people with mood disorders and wondered if she might benefit from it.
“The first time, I freaked out,” she remembers. “I thought, ‘I can’t cope with putting electrical stimulations in my brain.’ Lee put this machine on and, it’s difficult to explain, but, everything went empty in a good way. I can’t remember if I’ve ever felt like that. I felt relaxed and chilled inside. It was a mad sensation and an out-of-body experience.”
She’d tried anti-depressants in the past but found they didn’t work for her. Now she uses the kit regularly. “It’s improved my life and improved my mind,” she says.
Towards the end of the video (The Daily Telegraph 2008) Professor Vincent Walsh, (now of University of California Davis) discusses tDCS and its potential for therapeutic use. Especially of interest is the information on migraine headaches:
So, some migraines are caused by having too much activity in the visual brain area, and some are by having too little activity. And we hope that this can balance out, reverse that relative inactivity in the brain.
Could this imply that one person’s migraine could be mitigated with Cathodal (-) tdcs while another’s might benefit from Anodal (+) application of tDCS? And conversely, does it imply that improper stimulation would lead to MORE migraines?
If I suffered from migraines and wanted to test tDCS, here’s where I’d start:
Check the FisherWallace Find A Doctor search page for an electrotherapist in your area.
If they will treat you for migraine, try a few sessions. If it works, and your doctor will authorize a purchase, you can buy your own unit (for $700). A FisherWallace device may qualify for insurance coverage.
Alternately, I would monitor the ClinicalTrials.gov site and keep an eye out for new studies testing tDCS for migraine. And lastly, I would contact manufacturers of other tDCS devices and ask if they knew of any electrotherapy practitioners in your area working with migraine. Here’s my short list of manufacturers to contact:
MagStim: Another medical-level producer, although I’m not sure these devices are approved for use in the U.S. yet.
Alpha-Stim: While they don’t advertize the use of their device for migraine, they do offer many testimonials from people who state they found it beneficial. I have not seen this company associated with any scientific studies or papers.
Update 7/22/12: This device comes from UK based Magstim.
Amazing! Italian company has home tDCS unit available, I think. My Italian isn’t very good and the product links on the English version at http://www.newronika.it are protected. Does seem to me you could purchase one in Italy though.