OK, it’s time for a tDCS reality check!
Fact: (sadly), tDCS will always be a niche thing. There is no way for big-pharma or physicians to rake in tons of cash on a treatment that is so simple that it can’t even be patented. Persons wishing to take advantage of traditional two-electrode tDCS will seemingly be left up to their own resourcefulness while high-definition tDCS (because of complexity of many electrodes) will remain in the hands of a few physicians and research institutes.
Given the above, it’s unlikely that (in the US at least) you will ever be able to go to the corner drug store and pick up a two-electrode tDCS device. Likely big-pharma will lobby against it – and the FDA won’t allow it – even though a trained pharmacist could easily show you how to correctly use it! It’s really a heart-breaker because for the masses (otherwise generally healthy individuals), two-electrode tDCS is a Godsend. The whole situation is a great demonstration of just how messed up our system of medicine can be – even if it is the best in the world.
If you have bothered to read the scientific papers (see my blog and many others) or happen to know some folks who have used tDCS to treat depression, chronic-pain, or used it to enhance learning or memory, then you know tDCS might just be the greatest thing since aspirin.
Given market and bureaucratic realities, the vast majority of people wishing to take advantage of tDCS will be left to; 1. find the all too rare doctor familiar and treating with tDCS, 2. build their own tDCS device, 3. buy a tDCS device from off-shore, or 4. buy a domestically sold battery powered “very low current DC power supply” and use it for tDCS. I’ve written extensively about 1, 2, and 3 in prior posts. So lets explore number 4.
The FDA does not regulate the sale of DC power supplies. If someone were to acquire a battery operated, very low current supply (2 mA max) and on their own decide to use it for tDCS, who could stop them? Hopefully they will have read well all the practical and safety information regarding tDCS.
Enter the Biocurrent Kit
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.
Here’s a look at the kit just after unpacking the box:
It consists of three current control modules (1, 1.5, and 2 mA), a battery pack, connecting wires, electrodes, headband, and easy to follow instructions. The wires supplied have different connectors so that you can not mis-wire the kit. You simply plug the “building blocks” together and you have a nice regulated very low current DC supply! What you do with it is your business.
(A closer look at the current control modules and battery pack.)
(Assembled kit with 1.5 mA module. Electrodes plug into wires at the top of the image.)
The kit sells for $185 at www.biocurrentkit.com
What the Biocurrent kit lacks in beauty and charm it more than makes up for with creativity and simplicity. I’m sure future versions will become more refined. But hey, it works! I’m hoping they will add a meter-module – I’m a big fan of being able to measure the exact current level of a DC power supply. A timer module would be another interesting add-on!
Want to try tDCS? Seek out a medical professional treating with tDCS first. They are more rare than 50 carat diamonds – so good luck. Want to buy a “real” tDCS device, good luck again – in the US they are prescribed medical devices so they are VERY expensive. You are left with buying from an off-shore source or re-purposing a domestically obtained iontophoresis (or similar) device. What Biocurrent offers is an interesting and creative twist. I’m so curious to see if there are enough buyers for this idea to fly. If you decide to go this route, it is up to you to read, read, read, tDCS related material so that you know what you are doing and can do it safely.
Maybe one day you will be able to buy a tDCS device from the corner drug store or Walmart – with required guidance from the pharmacist – and dump forever those expensive and side-effect laden pills. Probably not in my lifetime!