Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is a relatively new technology for treating illnesses like depression, chronic pain (and more) and for enhancing memory, creativity, and various kinds of learning. tDCS is simple, safe (according to current studies), and involves equipment and techniques that are available to almost anyone willing to put in the effort required to learn to use it correctly.
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.
1. What is tDCS and How Does it Work?
If you want to understand tDCS and what it is all about, you have to dig a little.
Start with the basics: http://speakwisdom.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/can-a-9-volt-battery-save-a-life-even-yours/
Please watch this video:
Prof. Vince Clark from UC Davis tDCS Summit 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUMUIXNeBRQ
Then read this article (it’s a bit dense, but get what you can):
Transcranial DC Stimulation by Dave Siever, CET: https://www.mindalive.com/1_0/article%2011.pdf
You should also review these safety standards:
tDCS Safety Standards: http://speakwisdom.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/diy-tdcs-code-of-safety/
2. Pick a tDCS Device
You have two choices – either build your own tDCS device or buy a commercial unit.
Build it Yourself
A Simple tDCS Design: http://speakwisdom.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/a-very-simple-current-regulated-tdcs-device/
Or a little more sophisticated device: http://speakwisdom.wordpress.com/2013/02/10/user-built-tdcs-research-device/
Buy a tDCS Device
Also simple and inexpensive: http://thebrainstimulator.net/
Another very capable tDCS Device: www.trans-cranial.com
The ActivaDose II is very popular. Technically it is an iontophoresis device but can be used for tDCS: http://www.scriphessco.com/products/activa-activadose-ii-iontophoresis-device/
Look carefully at the electrodes that are (or are not) supplied with the tDCS device you purchase. The foc.us headset, for example, includes electrode sponges and is ready to go. Other suppliers provide stick-on electrodes which are generally not preferred. Most tDCS users and researchers have adopted reusable 3×3 sponge electrodes as a starting point. Amrex is a popular brand and is sold widely (including on Amazon.com). The Amrex sponges use a “banana” plug for connection. As such, you may need an adapter to go from your tDCS device to the Amrex sponges. Most medical suppliers carry adapters (www.scriphessco.com for example) or your tDCS device supplier may have them.
3. USING A tDCS DEVICE
As already mentioned, tDCS can be used to treat an assortment of illnesses or can be used to speed learning, improve memory, enhance creativity and more. Check these links for information on the “montage” that best suits your needs.
General Electrode Placement: http://www.jove.com/video/2744/electrode-positioning-montage-transcranial-direct-current
General Electrode Placements for learning, memory, depression, savant learning, and chronic pain: http://speakwisdom.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-foc-us-tdcs-headset-review-part-4-electrode-placements/
Researchers generally start with a treatment time of 20 minutes once per day for up to five days per week. A current level of 1 mA is suggested while you adapt to the scalp tingle that tDCS may create. 2 mA is generally too high for beginners and can cause considerable discomfort.
4. FINAL NOTES
tDCS is a new and developing area of research. You should use due caution when attempting anything related to tDCS. Better, seek out a medical professional for tDCS guidance and assistance. In Atlanta, www.transcranialbrainstimulation.com is a great resource. You should also monitor multiple tDCS information resources such as www.pubmed.gov (search for tDCS), www.diytdcs.com, www.reddit.com/r/tDCS/ , and Google.
I hope you find the information contained in this article useful and will visit all of the postings I have on http://www.speakwisdom.com.