Summer is Here! Time for The Brain Stimulator Travel Model!

Travel Model Advanced 2x2 Kit - Unplugged_NEW
(The Brain Stimulator Travel Model shown with available electrodes, wires, and headband. The tDCS module itself is very small and easy to transport.)

I am a longtime fan and proponent of tDCS.  There is plenty of evidence that this simple, safe, technology can be used to reduce or eliminate depression, treat chronic pain (including migraine headaches), enhance memory and learning, and more!  If you are new to tDCS, take a look at the index of tDCS articles I’ve posted at https://speakwisdom.wordpress.com/tdcs/

If you are looking for a high quality tDCS device that also happens to be ideal for summer travel, you should consider “The Brain Stimulator Travel Model”.  This is a well-built, basic, tDCS device that can deliver 1 or 2 mA with the flick of a switch and can stand-up to being repeatedly tossed into a suit-case or travel bag, jostled around, and still come out ready to go and deliver a reliable tDCS session.  Depending on the configuration you buy, it can cost as little as $55 – or a bit more with high quality electrodes and other accessories.

The Brain Stimulator Travel Model also makes an excellent first tDCS device or a supplemental device if you already own something more sophisticated.  It is built by JD Leadam and his team at Neurolectrics – real pioneers in the DIY tDCS marketplace.

 

IMG_1692
(The packaging of the devices is simple, neat, and able to withstand travel related abuse.)

Neurolectics used a tried and true design built around a current regulator and a 9 volt battery. It’s simple, safe, and reliable – but because a 9 volt battery is used as its energy source, it is very important that sponge-electrodes be used and that they be well wetted with a saline solution in order to assure delivery of 1 or 2 mA (depending on switch setting).

I always prefer that a DIY tDCS device have some monitoring capability (digital or analog meter) to assure that the desired current level is being delivered. Neurolectrics chose not to take that path with this device – I assume to keep cost at a minimum and the package as small as possible.  If you are a frequent tDCS user, I’d suggest changing the 9 volt battery every couple of months – and again – be sure to use well wetted sponge electrodes to help assure you receive the selected stimulation level.

IMG_1690
(Neurolectrics places all significant components on a nicely manufactured PC board. This limits point-to-point wiring and makes for a more reliable device – important for a travel device.)

The Brain Stimulator Travel Model could not be easier to use!  Simply wet the electrode sponges, place the electrodes as desired with a headband, flip the switch to 1 or 2 mA, and begin timing your tDCS session (20 to 25 minutes is typical.) When done, switch off the device, take off and stow the electrodes and you are done.  If you really are traveling with the device, I suggest you remove the sponges from the electrode shells and place them in a small water-tight container.  You should also wash them frequently with good soap and plenty of water to prevent anything undesirable from growing in them!

I’ve taken several trips (including through airports and airport security) with the The Brain Stimulator Travel Model and found it to be quite handy for personal use and for demonstrating tDCS as seminars.  Don’t expect any flashing lights or fancy meter with this unit.  It’s basic tDCS – and it works.

Visit the Neurolectics website at https://thebrainstimulator.net/

I welcome your comments and questions.

Brent

 

 

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Interview: JD Leadam, Neurolectrics

Here’s a chance to meet the founder and CEO of Neurolectrics – the creator of the BrainStimulator and the BrainStimulator Travel Model.  JD is a true pioneer in the DIY tDCS field and I hope you will find this podcast to be interesting and informative.

Click HERE to listen or download the mp3.  Total length is about 27 minutes, 12.5 MB

JD’s web site is HERE

Enjoy!

Travel Model Advanced 2x2 Kit - Unplugged_NEW

The Cognitive Kit, Stealth tDCS

tDCS Takes Off

It’s been amazing to watch the growth of interest in transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the last couple of years.  tDCS has moved from the obscurity of research center studies to a much wider audience via articles in the likes of Scientific American, the New York Times, Wired Magazine, assorted radio and TV bits, and of course the internet.

Many more people are at least peripherally aware that tDCS can help with depression, chronic pain, memory, learning, and more. Affordable tDCS devices have also become more available meaning fewer do-it-yourself types have to build their own.

At the lowest price are bare-bones 2 mA tDCS devices from www.tdcs-kit.com for less than $40 and a current-selectable unit from www.thebrainstimulator.net for less than $100.  Of course there are many tDCS devices at the opposite end of the spectrum that cost many hundreds to thousands of dollars.  But all accomplish the same task – providing a very small, regulated current to electrodes that are placed on the scalp in order to achieve a desired tDCS effect.

The Cognitive Kit

IMG_1319
(The Cognitive Kit with my “test head”.  The test head allows me to simulate various montages, take measurements, scope wave-forms, etc.)

A new entry to the tDCS market has arrived and I have been fortunate to be able to review an early sample.  Human Bioelectric ( www.cognitivekit.com ) has released a new model, The Cognitive Kit, meant to target the higher end of the entry level market.  The Cognitive Kit is a current selectable tDCS device that comes with Amrex electrodes (the most popular choice of professional and advanced DIY tDCS users), a headband and use instructions. The unit is well built and likely to attract attention due to it’s stealth approach to packaging (no labels or anything that identifies what it is).  You can bet the TSA folks will want check it and have you to turn it on if you fly somewhere with it!

Human Bioelectric does not provide montage or medical advice. As with most DIY tDCS device suppliers, they leave it up to you to do your homework to decide which tDCS montage is right for you.  I presume all do this to keep themselves off of the FDA radar screen.

Physical

The Cognitive Kit is a slim package somewhat larger than a typical smartphone. There is an on-off slide switch on the side of the case and a current selector slide-switch and session start-stop push-button on top.  There is also an LED indicator for power and session in progress LED. The Cognitive Kit does not include a session timer (typical of devices in this price class).

IMG_1315
(What is it? What are all the switches and lights for? The Cognitive Kit, Stealth tDCS)

Inside the box is a very nicely laid-out PC board containing all the major components.  The Cognitive Kit uses an LM234 (functionally identical to the LM334) for current regulation, coupled to a group of resistors and a selector switch that program the LM234 to limit current to 1, 1.5, or 2 mA depending on switch position. This is a very tried and tested design that should prove to be highly reliable and safe for many years of use.

IMG_1313
(Neat and solid construction.  Should last for years.)

The Cognitive Kit uses two 9 volt batteries in series to supply 18 volts to the regulator board.  Why 18 volts instead of the 9 volts that some use?  One of the chief difficulties of a tDCS device is overcoming the highly variable resistance encountered depending on the position of the electrodes on the scalp, how wet they are, whether salt has been used, or if some other type of electrode is being use that has higher resistance (stick-on type for example).  In some cases 9 volt powered tDCS devices have a difficult time achieving 2 mA, or even 1 or 1.5 mA in a tDCS session because the lower voltage cannot overcome resistance in the “head circuit”.  The higher source voltage of  the Cognitive Kit helps overcome electrode, hair, skin, etc. resistance so it can more reliably deliver the selected current level. This is exactly the idea behind the “boost” circuits used in more expensive tDCS devices (and professional models) that boost the regulated voltage to 60 or 80 volts – and why some users of higher-end tDCS devices have received a frightening shock when they inadvertently pulled off electrodes during a tDCS session.

Using a lower voltage (9, 12, or 18), makes the tDCS device circuit much simpler to build, probably more reliable in the long-run, and eliminates the possibility of a high voltage shock.

Interestingly, Human Bioelectric claims that the Cognitive Kit has a built-in failure-mode current limit of 6 mA (for 2 k-Ohms of head resistance). In a device failure, 6 mA would be VERY uncomfortable, causing any user to immediately switch off the device or rip off the electrodes. According to what I’ve read, that current level would not do any damage in the brief time a user could tolerate it!

In Use

I set up the Cognitive Kit for several different common montages used in tDCS and found it to reliably deliver the selected current level and to be easy to use.

Procedure

  • Wet electrodes (slightly saline water). Squeeze out excess water.
  • Place the electrodes in desired locations using a headband to hold them in place.
  • Turn on the Cognitive Kit (slide switch on side)
  • Select desired current level (slide switch on top)
  • Press button (on top) to Start tDCS session
  • Manually time 20 minute session
  • Press button (on top) to Stop tDCS session, switch off the Cognitive Kit
  • Remove electrodes from head (clean sponges as needed)

The montage for “savant learning”, for example, involves placing the anode (+) on the right temple and the cathode (-) on the left temple.  Doing that I found (about 4 k-Ohms of head resistance):

  • Switch set for 1 mA, I measured a current of 0.99 mA
  • Switch set for 1.5 mA, I measured a current of 1.53 mA
  • Switch set for 2.0 mA, I measured a current of 2.01 mA

These numbers show excellent regulation and were reliable with different montages.

One feature that all of the less expensive tDCS devices lack is a slow ramp-up, ramp-down circuit.  When you start a tDCS session, the Cognitive Kit current very quickly goes from zero to your selected level – delayed slightly by how long it takes water to saturate your skin and provide a good conductive path.  Because of this, you may see a weak phosphene (flash of light) as a tDCS session starts or ends. This can seem strange, but all the literature I’ve read indicates that phosphenes are harmless.

What I Like

  • Simple device, very easy to use
  • Low voltage so no possibility of a 60 or 80 volt shock
  • Rugged PC board design – should last many years
  • Amrex 3×3 sponges and headband included
  • Current limited in failure

What Could Use Improvement

  • Labeling the case would be useful and improve appearance (though some may prefer the stealth look)
  • LED brightness is very high (nit picking)
  • You must remove four screws on the back to replace batteries
  • I still love having a mA meter on a tDCS device – it’s an assurance

Final Comments

The Cognitive Kit sells for about $200 and comes complete with Amrex sponge electrodes, headband, connecting wires, and instructions.  Some may question the price, and yes, the Cognitive Kit could be sold for less if it were less solidly built and did not include Amrex 3×3 electrodes. A solid build is worth something and if you are serious about tDCS, no matter what tDCS device you buy, sooner or later you’ll be buying Amrex 3×3’s. They are not cheap! The Cognitive Kit and Amrex 3×3 combination should last you for years if taken care of. As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for”.

Operationally, the Cognitive Kit does what Human Bioelectric claims: it delivers well regulated current at 1, 1.5, or 2 mA.  If you are shopping for a tDCS device, the Cognitive Kit deserves consideration.

 

Yea! The new app for the foc.us tDCS headset has arrived!

After a long, long wait, we finally have a working iOS app to control the foc.us tDCS headset.  While still needing some polish, the app released in January of 2014 gets the job done, allowing control of current, duration and treatment type.

IMG_0952
(foc.us app, ver. 2)

To get started, you need an iPhone 4s or later or and iPad 3 or later using iOS 7.  Given those conditions, go to the App Store, search for foc.us and you should have no trouble locating and installing the app.  Then the fun begins!

First – be aware that though this is version 2.0 of the foc.us app, think of it as a 0.99 version. It works, but has much polish and stability to be added yet.  You will struggle with it a bit, but once you get the hang of it, you will find it usable in accessing the features of the foc.us headset. As foc.us adds some polish, this should become the app we’ve all been waiting for!

Getting Connected

Make sure your foc.us headset is charged and ready to go and that Bluetooth is enabled on your iOS device.

To Connect:

  1. Start the foc.us app
  2. Place your headset in “Ready” mode by touching the touch-button for three or four seconds.  It should buzz and the blue foc.us logo should blink.
  3. Touch “Bluetooth” at the bottom of the app screen.  The headset should show in the list of available Bluetooth devices as “foc.us gamer”.  Touch “Connect”. Note – if you take too long, the headset may drop out of “Ready” mode.

IMG_0953
(App and headset connected)

  1. Touch the “Current” circle and move the slider to the desired current level.  If you are new at all of this, I suggest 1.0 mA. Touch “Change” to confirm.

IMG_0955
(Setting the current level in the app)

  1. Touch the “Duration” circle and move the slider as desired.  Normally, tDCS sessions are 20 minutes (in research anyway.) Touch “Change” to confirm.
  2. Touch “Mode”.  Unless you have a specific research reason to do otherwise, I’d pick “Continuous” – that is tDCS.

IMG_0954
(Pick Continuous for tDCS)

Once the above selections are made, the tDCS session should start immediately.

If your tDCS session does NOT start immediately, the app and your headset have probably lost contact with each other (even though the Bluetooth screen shows otherwise). I suggest closing the foc.us app (double-click home on your iOS device, and flick the foc.us app UP to close it).  START OVER at step 1 above.

During the tDCS session, the “Duration” will count down minute by minute.  At the end of the session there is a brief “buzz” from the headset to let you know the session is complete.

IMG_0959
(
Duration counts down as session progresses)

Oddities

  1. The app and the headset seem to lose sync with each other if you delay too long in making selections, cancel a session, or do much other than the steps I show above. (Remember it’s really a 0.99 release.)
  2. The duration reads “00” during the last 59 seconds of a session.

Update to my Free Guide to using the foc.us headset

I’ll be adding these instructions and more to my free guide in the next few days. I’d appreciate any input you have as the objective is to help headset users get the most from the product. The button to download the free guide is on the right side of my main blog page.

Thoughts on the Use of tDCS in Education Settings

Why the Interest in tDCS?

Research studies and anecdotal evidence show that tDCS, a simple and safe way to stimulate the brain, does have the ability to enhance memory, speed learning, improve physical skill, and enhance creativity.  There are now well over 1,000 published studies of tDCS with more underway and research participation of institutions ranging from Harvard Medical, MIT, Emory University, to the University of Alabama and dozens more.


(tDCS headset. http://www.foc.us)

Already, high-school and college students are catching on to just what tDCS may do for them.  There are many YouTube and blog posts from and by students discussing their experience with tDCS and others asking for help in setting up and using a tDCS device.  Some indicate substantial improvement in their performance with tDCS. As tDCS devices become more accessible and word of it continues to spread through popular press and internet resources (NYT, Nature, Scientific American and many others have already published tDCS articles), educators can eventually expect to be confronted with some significant ethical and policy questions.

While it’s difficult to pin-down an exact percentage improvement students see in their work, (more studies are required), students use words like “significant”, “substantial”, and “surprising” in their comments. As time goes on, not only will more students demand access to tDCS, it is likely that parents, seeking greater success for their children, will encourage its use.

How Might tDCS Be Used by Students

  • During study for tests – including high-stakes (SAT, etc.)
  • Learning lists of material (names, dates, places, events, etc.)
  • Learning new languages (spoken and written)
  • Improving athletic skill
  • Enhancing creativity in writing, art, film production, etc.
  • To reduce or eliminate depression (a common problem in student populations)

Ethical Issues

Educators must face the reality that certain students will “brain boost” using tDCS and by doing so, improve their classroom performance as well as on assorted tests that are common in education settings. Even “high-stakes” test outcome could be positively influenced for students making proper use of tDCS. Student athletes may use tDCS to improve their performance on the tennis court or football field.

  • If a student using tDCS for study can perform 10% better on an SAT test than an equally talented student who does not possess a tDCS device, is there a fairness or ethical issue?
  • If a student has a learning disability and through the use of tDCS is able to perform at “non-disability” levels, is there a fairness or ethical issue?
  • Will we now enter a new era of “haves and have not’s” in K-12 and higher-education learning?
  • Will students from middle-class and above families, able to afford a device and related training, take advantage of it while lower income, less advantaged students will go without?

If tDCS, well used, can improve test scores, is that not ultimately going to be very significant in the lives of some students?


(George Mason University)

Policy Questions

If tDCS is going to play some role in the lives of K-12 and higher ed students in the coming years, then perhaps it’s time to begin creating policy to address tDCS – including:

  1. Will tDCS use be permitted (even though it will be impossible to regulate home use)?
  2. Will students be trained in proper tDCS use in school? (or after school)
  3. Will schools provide tDCS devices for students when the family cannot afford it?
  4. Will schools encourage tDCS as a means to improve test scores?
  5. Will school clinics offer tDCS treatments for those suffering with depression (rather than medicate them?)
  6. Will legal liability issues limit the ability of schools to responsibly encourage and direct the use of tDCS in education settings?

tDCS is a wonderful thing! It has the potential to help the human condition on so many levels – from depression to Parkinson’s disease, with learning enhancements thrown in as a bonus. How will we, as educators, respond to this fascinating new capability – which students have already discovered?

Let the dialog begin!

Contact me via brent@speakwisdom.com

For more information on tDCS see www.speakwisdom.com, http://www.diytdcs.com, http://www.transcranialbrainstimulation.com, http://www.pubmed.gov, and Google!

A $7 Usability Improvement for the tDCS-Kit.com Device

I recently reviewed the tDCS-Kit.com devices and found them to be useful but “bare-bones”.  For about $40 you get a current regulated tDCS device that puts out a max of about 2 mA. ( See https://speakwisdom.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/product-review-tdcs-kit-com-tdcs-devices/ ) While I’m not a fan of the USB version, the 9-volt battery version deserves consideration. Being “bare-bones”, the device is a bit harsh on start-up and shutdown and offers no control of the current delivered other than the 2 mA limit.

I constantly receive emails and messages from folks from all over the world complaining that they cannot afford the $250 (or more) the more sophisticated tDCS devices cost. Yet they are desperate for help with depression, chronic pain, etc.  So the price of the tDCS-kit.com device is attractive – it provides a serviceable tDCS device at a very low cost.


(tDCS-Kit.com Device)

With a very simple modification, the tDCS-kit.com device can have current control! That means you can start and end a tDCS session by ramping current  up and down in a comfortable way – and limiting current at a desired level (say 1 or 1.5 mA.)

Here is what you need:
1. 5 k-Ohm linear potentiometer RS part 271-1714 $3.49
1. Project box RS part 270-1801 $3.49
1. Knob from your junk box or other source

You also need the ability (or have a friend) who can do some basic soldering.

Simply put, the potentiometer will be connected ACROSS the anode and cathode lead from the tDCS-kit.com device. It will act as an adjustable alternate pathway for current so that not all of the  2 mA from the tDCS device will pass through your head. Along the way, you may want to replace the “pin” style connectors with alligator clips (my preference) or banana plugs.

Adjustable current for the tDCS-kit device
(Simple diagram of the mod to the the tDCS-Kit.com device.)

Inside Current Control for tDCS-Kit device
(I put the potentiometer in a little project box. Note that I clipped the pin connectors off and soldered the red-striped lead to the center of the potentiometer.  The red anode lead to the electrode also goes there. The black cathode leads are soldered to the bottom terminal of the potentiometer.)

Current control box for tDCS-kit device
(Complete! tDCS-Kit module is at the left. Leads to electrodes appear at the right.)

May I suggest you also spend a little money and buy a digital multi-meter (many for $10 or less.) You will need that to monitor the current level you are using for your tDCS session. The multi-meter is set to read current and is placed in series with the red (anode) lead and connects to that electrode. With the modification shown above, you can vary current up to the max of 2 mA that the device will deliver.

Warning: Disconnect the battery when not using the device as there will always be a load present.

I think you will find this simple modification makes the tDCS-Kit.com device far more versatile and comfortable to use.

As with any DIY tDCS project, you are responsible for your own actions and safety. If you are not sure what you are doing STOP and get help from a professional and/or read, read, read about tDCS.

Can a 9 Volt Battery Save A Life – Even Yours?

 

A 9 Volt Battery???

It’s becoming very clear that persons with serious brain related issues can, in many cases, be very effectively treated with the simple application of an extremely low current to the scalp, sourced from a common battery! Nothing painful, exotic, complicated, or dangerous is involved. Yes, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can be used to treat depression, chronic pain, and is being researched as an aid for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients. But TDCS has also been shown to be an effective way to speed learning, ease memorization, and enhance creativity. As an example of how far ranging tDCS use is, the US Air Force and Army have apparently been using tDCS techniques to improve cognitive capabilities for years!


(Scientific American)

I’ve been completely fascinated by tDCS since I first learned of it. What other technology is so simple yet has the potential to help so many – whether it be to treat depression, chronic pain, or just dramatically improve the ability to learn or memorize almost anything. What else does all of that with almost no risk or side-effects? Why this isn’t the lead story on the evening news and your local paper is hard to explain.

Think this is all hocus-pocus? Many big name research institutions around the world are now involved in tDCS including MIT, Harvard Medical School, Emory University, University of Michigan, the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital,  Massachusetts General Hospital, University Medicine Berlin, The City College of New York and many more. A quick look at http://www.pubmed.gov will reveal that over 900 studies of tDCS have now been published!

What is the treatment?

tDCS basically involves using a tiny amount of energy from a battery applied in particular locations on the scalp, depending on the effect desired. A one or two milliamp ( 0.001 amp) direct current is applied via saline-wetted sponges to two points on the head. For example, for depression the negative lead is placed just above the right eye on the forehead and the positive lead goes high on the left-forehead.) For depression, typical treatment lasts about 20 minutes once a day for about 30 days and the person receiving the treatment feels nothing other than a slight tingle. Treatment can easily done at home. That’s it. No expensive medications with unpredictable results and terrible side effects. It works! Wow! Big pharma is not going to be happy about this!

tDCS treatment hardware is so simple that people (sometimes desperate for help and at the end of their rope) are building their own tDCS treatment systems (about $50 in parts at Radio Shack will do! Instructions are on the web.)

000_0031
(An example tDCS device built by the author)

While assembled tDCS equipment sold by vendors in the US normally requires a prescription (raising the price to $300 or more), the safety record of tDCS has caused the FDA and suppliers to “look the other way” allowing a number of vendors to now begin offering tDCS equipment directly to individuals. For example, a company by the name of foc.us has recently started shipping a feature laden tDCS headset which sells for about $250.  


(medgadget.com)

There are doctors and clinics now offering tDCS services. One of the better known is in Atlanta – see http://www.transcranialbrainstimulation.com/ Here’s a quote from the Atlanta clinic website, “Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is a safe, non-invasive therapy for treatment-resistant neurologic, psychiatric and chronic pain disorders. You can increase memory and learning with tDCS, too. Effective, easy-to-do, inexpensive and without side effects, tDCS can be done in the outpatient clinic or, for the appropriate patient, in the home which provides obvious advantages. “

So, Can a 9 Volt Battery Save a Life – Even Yours?

The Centers for Disease Control reports that about 10% of Americans are clinically depressed and either on medication or in need of it.  Also, about 40,000 people per year commit suicide in the US! This huge depression/suicide problem is not being effectively addressed because many who need treatment will not seek it out.  Why? There are several possible reasons including the stigma of depression and its treatment, lack of access to appropriate care, the high cost of treatment and medications, etc. tDCS is inexpensive, simple, side-effect free, and shown to have positive effect in many scientific studies. In my opinion, It should be in the “tool kit” of every doctor and mental health professional.

I’ll close for now and provide you with some links to investigate. tDCS looks to be a bombshell that could literally transform the lives of many, many people. It probably deserves your awareness!

To get you started: 


I have a large number of tDCS related articles and links on my website:

www.speakwisdom.com

General Interest Wikipedia Article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcranial_direct-current_stimulation

tDCS – Scientific American and the Air Force:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=amping-up-brain-function

General Interest Article with Many References

http://www.mindalive.com/articlenten_Transcranial_DC_Stimulation.htm

British Journal of Psychiatry:

http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/200/1/52.abstract

http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/200/1/10.abstract

Interesting Video and Text about Electrode Positioning:

http://www.jove.com/video/2744/electrode-positioning-montage-transcranial-direct-current

Atlanta Doctor Providing tDCS Services:

http://www.transcranialbrainstimulation.com

tDCS Headset:

www.foc.us

Links to more tDCS information

http://www.diytdcs.com

My tDCS Wish List

I have been reading studies, attending training, experimenting with, and writing about transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) for about two years now.  Needless to say, I am enthusiastic about what tDCS can do for many people who use it for depression, chronic pain, enhanced creativity, and memory. It may also may have positive effect for other important conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s – there are certainly studies that show that to be the case.


(Scientific American)

Given that it has positive effect on many who try it, it could improve the quality of life of millions of people around the world. All of this without drugs, without the cost of drugs, and with no significant side-effects.

With all the great things I’ve learned about tDCS, I thought I’d share a little of my tDCS Wish List for the next five years:

In The Next Five Years I Wish That:

  1. every appropriate medical practitioner (and counselor) would at least become aware of tDCS. A treatment this good, this simple, this safe, with so much positive effect should not be overlooked. It should be a tool in the kit of considered-treatments for every practitioner.
  2. that the popular press would at least make an attempt to write sensible and factual articles about tDCS. For example, it would be great to stop comparing tDCS to electro-shock treatment. Could they be any more different? Such mindless hype scares people who might be helped greatly by tDCS.
  3. that funding could be found to “get the word out” about tDCS. Because there are no drug company $ billions for magazine ads, TV commercials, and infomercials, it looks as though tDCS will always be a niche treatment, known by a lucky few – missed by millions it could help. I wonder how many lives could be vastly improved (or saved) if tDCS were as well-known as Viagra?
  4. that I could find one or more well-known, depressed, troubled Hollywood star(s), known for appearances in People Magazine and on TMZ – who would agree to a course of tDCS treatment. Once improved, those stars would have to be willing to speak about tDCS – the treatment that got them out of the pit. For better or worse, we live in a “star” powered society – such articles appearing in Hollywood rags and read and seen by millions could really help push tDCS towards a tipping point.
  5. that my second career be all about researching, writing, and speaking about the practical side of tDCS. There is a whole world full of people who need the help that this simple treatment can offer. A tDCS device can be as simple as a 9 volt battery, an inexpensive CRD diode, and a couple of sponges. Imagine the good that could be done!
  6. that I could find one or more philanthropists willing to join in the good work related to tDCS – and help a whole lot of people in the process! There are $ millions of research dollars flowing to universities and research centers all around the world looking at tDCS. But there is very little being done to get tDCS to the people who can benefit from it. If you are a philanthropist who really wants to make a difference in a very tangible way, feel free to contact me. Let’s get something started!


(One of the most important contributions of tDCS:
a simple treatment for the depression epidemic.)

Mark the date. At this point, for certain types of treatment, tDCS is well researched, simple, and considered safe. We all know that tDCS is barely known among the masses and the medical community. Ask any doctor you know  – I’d say the odds are about 1 in 100 that they know anything at all about tDCS.

What will things be like in 2018? By 2018, how many millions will have suffered for lack of access to a tDCS device and a tDCS trained professional? Can you help?

foc.us-mal-female-london-thumb
(A self-contained tDCS treatment headset. http://www.foc.us)

The foc.us tDCS Headset, Review Part 4, Electrode Placements

Note: If you are new to tDCS and/or the foc.us headset, may I suggest that you read parts one through three before reading this post.  You’ll better understand what I present here if you have a little context. Also, you might want to know that the default “built-on” electrode configuration for the foc.us headset addresses one depression and learning/memory montage “right out of the box”.

Great Product!

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The more I have used this headset, the more I have come to believe that it is an almost ideal tDCS device.  It’s features and versatility make it a breeze to setup and a pleasure to use.  I have become a real fan of not being tethered to a traditional tDCS device – wires, box, electrodes, head-band(s), etc. My guess is that foc.us will be VERY successful – ultimately selling these headsets to end-users, medical practitioners, and the research community.

Electrode Placements

I’ve had repeated requests to show electrode placements for various scenarios using the foc.us headset. As you look at these, remember, they are just examples. There are alternative placements and new tDCS montage information being published almost every day!  What I hope to convey is the versatility the foc.us headset provides through various electrode placements. So here we go…

DEPRESSION

The most common depression treatment using tDCS places the anode at F3 (high on the left forehead) and the cathode at FP2 (just above the right eye on the forehead).  See below…

Depression Montage
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Typical electrode placement for depression treatment.)

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The unusual foc.us “built-on” electrode placement puts the anode at FP1 and F3 and the cathode at FP2 and F4.  So yes, it supplies current in the general area suggested for depression treatment.  Has this unusual arrangement been scientifically studied?  Not to my knowledge. There is anecdotal evidence that indicates that it works.  BTW Notice the air-gap between the sponge and the “head” in the upper right of the photo.  Be careful when you put the headset on your “real” head that there are no air-gaps.)

“SAVANT” LEARNING

This montage is been in the press of late and is easy to do with the foc.us headset with the accessory kit. Normally, the anode is placed at about T4 (the right temple) and the cathode at about T3 (the left temple.)

Savant Learning Montage
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Electrodes are placed on the temples)

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The accessory kit includes wire electrodes that connect to the back of the headset. You can then attach the electrodes wherever your montage requires.)

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If you use the wire electrodes, remember that the “built-on” electrodes remain active.  You can use them if appropriate or remove the sponges to not use them.  In this case, the built-on electrodes are not used at all – in fact you can take the headset off and set if on your desk – or do what I do, just let it rest on your neck.)

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If using the wire electrodes, the headset does not need to be on your head!)

MEMORIZATION and LEARNING

An interesting memorization and learning montage involves placing the anode at FP1 (above the left eye on the forehead) and the cathode at FP2 (above the right eye on the forehead).

Memory and Learning Montage
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There are other variations of “learning” electrode placements on the web.)

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As with the depression montage shown earlier, the unusual placement of the built-on electrodes is “more” than required for this montage. Possibly the upper sponges could be left out to more precisely match the montage requirements. However, current density could be too high or irritation might result as the sponges are small. Research is needed! An alternative is to use the wire electrodes and not put the headset on the head at all.)

CHRONIC PAIN

Chronic pain is addressed in at least a couple of different montages.  One example is to place the anode at C4 (above the right ear, halfway to the center of the head) and the cathode at FP1 (above the left eye on the forehead).  There are other montages for chronic pain – so look those up on the web if the one I show is not what you are looking for.) Another montage places the anode at either C3 or C4 and the corresponding cathode at FP1 or FP2 on the same side of the head (left or right) to treat chronic pain on the opposite side of the body (left or right).

Chronic Pain Montage
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One of the reported chronic pain montages.)

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This is another example of how versatile the foc,us headset can be. Use the wire electrodes for this chronic pain montage and set the headset on your desk or leave it resting on your neck – with no sponges.)

Wrap-Up

So there you are – four examples of tDCS montages using the foc.us headset.  What a great and versatile product. It’s unfortunate that the default treatment in time in the headset is 10 minutes.  The norm in tDCS treatment is 20 minutes (sometimes 30 minutes.)  Once the iOS and Bluetooth issues are resolved, changing treatment time will be the first thing I do!  In the interim, once one session is complete, you can simply touch the button on the back of the headset one time to repeat a 10 minute treatment.

How else can I help you with this headset or tDCS in general? Please feel free to send me an email at brent@speakwisdom.com

The tDCS “Cat” is Out of the Bag

Miracle Medication

Aspirin is a miracle medication. Isolated by Hoffman in 1897, it is a simple compound that, these days, can be created by anyone who has had a high-school chemistry course. Aspirin can, of course, be purchased in commercial form and most people are familiar with certain maladies that can be treated by it. On the fringes, there are esoteric uses for aspirin, but in the main, it is well understood and used by millions of people every day.

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What about transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)? It’s simpler and (apparently) safer than aspirin – when used correctly – and is effective in treating depression, chronic pain, enhancing learning and much more in otherwise healthy people. So why can’t the average person on the street buy a tDCS device and self-administer treatment?

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(neura.edu.au)

There are at least three reasons. First, tDCS is relatively new and studies that confirm its effectiveness and safety are just emerging. Two, certain tDCS treatment scenarios can be pretty complex, well beyond the ability of an average person to carry out. Third, there is no way for big-pharma to cash in on tDCS (yet). It’s very unlikely you will ever see expensive commercials during your favorite TV show advertising tDCS to treat some focus-group tested three-letter malady. It won’t happen. tDCS devices are extremely simple to build (or buy) and treatment protocols for certain ailments ARE simple and are all over the internet.

The average Joe will learn about tDCS and start demanding access to it because a bunch of do-it-yourself (DIY) folks and a few physicians will have succeeded in a grass-roots effort to get the word out. Yes, there is also a small and growing group of doctors that see the obvious benefits of tDCS (and lack of risk) and are starting to use it with their patients – and their patients are becoming some of the best spokes-persons for tDCS.

Problems, Problems

According to the CDC, about 1 in 10 adults in the US uses some form of antidepressant.  Their depression may or may not be well controlled and they likely suffer at least some noticeable side effects. Sources vary, but about $3 billion is spent on antidepressants every year. These numbers do not reflect a significant number of individuals who ARE depressed but not receiving any treatment – due to costs, social pressures, etc.

It’s hard to believe, but various sources report that as many as 1 in 3 Americans suffer from chronic pain.  Cost? $500-600 billion per year!

The tDCS Triad

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation has been shown to provide relief for depression and chronic pain, and to enhance learning (the tDCS triad) – and much more. When treating the “triad”, it is simple, apparently very safe, and has no significant side effects. Can similar claims be made for any other other treatment (medication)?

Does it work for everyone? The simple answer is no, but for many it does – and for many who failed to get relief (or enhancement) from medications.

tDCS is not just about depression, chronic pain, and learning enhancement. As mentioned above, there are very broad areas of research seeking potential use in treating Alzheimers, stroke, brain trauma, etc. Treatment for those less understood ailments can be quite complex and require MRI or FMRI to design an appropriate regimen and the use of “high definition” tDCS, using ten electrodes or more, as part of the treatment. This is well beyond the ability of the DIY community.

But the “triad” (depression, chronic pain, learning enhancement) is normally treated with simple “bipolar tDCS” – two electrodes are placed in very specific locations on the scalp, which are well known, as part of normal treatment.

Because bi-polar tDCS involves such simple equipment and procedures, a rather sizable “do-it-yourself” community has taken up the mantle of treating themselves and helping friends reap the benefits of tDCS.

DIY tDCS is growing because most doctors have no idea what tDCS is – or what it can do. Further, doctors who do use tDCS cannot bill insurance for tDCS treatments (it is not yet “recognized” by the FDA.) So treatment can be expensive – out of reach for many – and simply unavailable in most areas of the US. So it seems that the DIY community will continue to build tDCS devices, use tDCS to treat the “triad”, and spread the word via emails and blogs. Meanwhile, research centers, Universities, and the like will continue their work on all areas of tDCS using their more sophisticated equipment and techniques to push the boundaries of tDCS application.

tDCS for Everyone?

One day, tDCS may be as commonly used as aspirin for treating certain issues – but we have a long, long way to go to get to that point. Like aspirin, tDCS won’t help everyone – but scientific and anecdotal evidence says it can help many. So while we wait, millions go untreated (or poorly-treated) and live lesser lives due to lack of access to tDCS triad treatments and all the benefits they can bring. Come on medical community, come on FDA.