My brain on electricity: A 130 day tDCS experiment

Reddit user ADifferentDrum posted the results of his informal long term dual n back/tDCS training research project. Links below to full article.

In an informal experiment aimed at improving memory and attention, I stimulated various regions of my brain using tDCS therapy for 130 sessions over 135 days while simultaneously completing the working memory task dual n back. Each session lasted about 30 minutes. I found that my scores significantly improved both during “live” tDCS treatment and also during intermittent “off” stimulation memory task sessions. I had previously done the dual n back task thousands of trials over the course of two years so the improvement in performance cannot be attributed to practice effects alone. Just as some of the literature suggests, I found that tDCS can improve a very specific skill (in this case “brain game” performance), but the jury is still out as to what benefits, if any does tDCS have in improving other skills outside of training…

130 day stimulation schedule

EEG Position Description Duration
P4 Right Parietal 15 days
P3 Left Parietal 15 days
F3 Left Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex 30 days
FP2 Right Frontal Pole 15 days
FP1 Left Frontal Pole 15 days
F3/FP1 (revisiting regions) Left DLPFC/Left Poles 10 days
T4 Right Temporal Lobe 15 days
T3 Left Temporal Lobe 15 days

via My brain on electricity: A 130 day tDCS experiment.

Longitudinal Neurostimulation in Older Adults Improves Working Memory | PLOS ONE


Modeling of current flow when applying 1.5 mA tDCS for F4 anodal (top) and P4 anodal (bottom) stimulation and the cathodal electrode placed on the contralateral cheek.

Important study. 72 older participants, average age 64 showed improvement in working memory tasks but also (and this is a big deal where it comes to cognitive enhancement) significant transfer (where improvements are seen in other tasks not specifically trained for). These results run counter to other recent studies and beg the question of whether the participant’s age was a factor. i.e. Is tDCS more effective for aging brains? That would be a big deal. [See Also: tDCS selectively improves working memory in older adults with more education]  And thanks to PLOS ONE we can all read the full paper (linked below)

The results demonstrated that all groups benefited from WM training, as expected. However, at follow-up 1-month after training ended, only the participants in the active tDCS groups maintained significant improvement. Importantly, this pattern was observed for both trained and transfer tasks. These results demonstrate that tDCS-linked WM training can provide long-term benefits in maintaining cognitive training benefits and extending them to untrained tasks.

Interesting, the location of the reference (cathodal) electrode was opposite cheek.

In all conditions, one electrode was placed over the target location at either F4 or P4 (International 10–20 EEG system) and the reference electrode was placed on the contralateral cheek.

via PLOS ONE: Longitudinal Neurostimulation in Older Adults Improves Working Memory.