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:

Please watch this video:
Prof. Vince Clark from UC Davis tDCS Summit 2013:

Then read this article (it’s a bit dense, but get what you can):
Transcranial DC Stimulation by Dave Siever, CET:

You should also review these safety standards:
tDCS Safety Standards:

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:

Or a little more sophisticated device:

Buy a tDCS Device

Very Simple, Inexpensive: (review at )

Also simple and inexpensive:

The headset is sophisticated and capable: (I have a series of review articles on the headset at


Another very capable tDCS Device:

The ActivaDose II is very popular. Technically it is an iontophoresis device but can be used for tDCS:


Look carefully at the electrodes that are (or are not) supplied with the tDCS device you purchase. The 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 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 ( for example) or your tDCS device supplier may have them.



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:

General Electrode Placements for learning, memory, depression, savant learning, and chronic pain:



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.

Depression Montage


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, is a great resource. You should also monitor multiple tDCS information resources such as (search for tDCS),, , and Google.

I hope you find the information contained in this article useful and will visit all of the postings I have on








  1. Brent,
    I’ve followed tDCS for awhile before reading the recent WIRED article.
    Have you had any experience with the Fisher-Wallave unit? I’d spoken w/ them and read through the research data they have on tDCS as related to A/D addiction treatment. I think this technology could greatly help patients progress in rehab treatment, after I’d worked in that field for several years and observed the tremendous grip substance abuse has on the addictive psyche, and my personal experience of recovery.
    I appreciate any info you can offer on this.

    1. Hi Jack,

      The FW device is not tDCS (though they are doing their best to grab tDCS coat-tails). They report great results so it must work for some.

      I have not read studies related to addiction/recover and tDCS. You may want to do some digging at .


  2. Hello! First of all congratulations for the blog, a real source of news about tDCS! I’m approaching to this new technique of mental stimulation. I built a tDCS device following the Open tDCS project at: The output current is correct but I’m having trouble figuring out how to place the anode and the cathode based on the images shown just above. If I put the red probe of multimeter on the + terminal of my tDCS device and black probe on the – terminal of the device, the multimeter marks a positive current. To place the electrodes as in the pictures should I considere the + terminal of my tDCS device the anode or the cathod of the images? And then the black or the red arrows of the images? Thank you for the help!


  3. Hi, I’ve been reading your reviews trying to decide which tdcs device to buy – I’m thinking maybe the SSD (super specific devices) tdcs — My question is, can I use a type 23a 12 volt battery (like you mentioned you would prefer) in this SSD device instead of a 9 volt? May I ask another question please? – You mentioned somewhere that a device has two 9 volt batteries run in series, may I have the name of that one? Did you do a review on it? Thank you so much for your blog and reviews!

  4. tDCS is the real deal. I had put my unit ( v1) away for a couple of months and recently charged it up and used it. There was no doubt I had more clarity, was more relaxed, more effective and generally had a higher satisfaction with life after starting again. I think in the past I might have used it too much. Like any good drug, I will be the one to overuse it and that’s a decent analogy but tDCS is better than any drug.

    My question though, and after reading your reviews. Is there a good reason to order v2 over the 1. I have the money but I don’t like to waste it either. What do you think?

    1. Tough call. I have and use both. I love the V1 – it is amazingly versatile for a version 1 product. I love the v2 too! The V2 offers a tiny tDCS module and headsets with larger sponges (a common complaint about the v1).


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