Help for Your Brain: A Great Gift!

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation ( tDCS ) has come a long way in just a few years.  This incredible technology can relieve depression, improve memory, speed learning, and more and is slowly moving toward main-stream as new research, products, and government approvals come along. It’s been the darling of university research centers since Scientific American published a ground-breaking article about tDCS in 2011 ( see https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/amping-up-brain-function/

The Go Flow 4 comes in an attractive zipper case ready for travel.

Now foc.us (www.foc.us) has another product in their portfolio of brain stimulation and EEG related products – the Go Flow 4 – which is available in the US from http://www.caputron.com for $244. This complete kit includes a versatile, compact tDCS device, battery, electrodes, wires, headband and basic instructions.

The Go Flow 4 case contains all you need except water!

Here’s How It Works

The Go Flow 4 tDCS device passes an extremely small direct current through your brain via specific locations on your scalp in order to enhance or reduce a particular kind of brain activity.  It is thought that the excitation level of various brain cells is modified by the current and can result in reduction or elimination of depression symptoms, improved memory, quicker learning (including physical task learning), improved sleep, and more.  Electrodes must be placed correctly and 20 minute sessions must be repeated daily for a number of days in order to receive the full benefit of tDCS. tDCS is used by the US military, various mental health professionals, and pioneering individuals around the world. 

My famous tDCS test-head with foc.us electrodes and headband ready for a tDCS session.

To use the Go Flow 4 you follow some simple steps:

  1. Attach the battery to the Go Flow 4 device
  2. Place electrodes in the headband at the desired button-hole locations and moisten the electrode sponges with tap water or saline water.
  3. Set the current and duration for the session using the rocker switch on the Go Flow 4
  4. Place the headband on you head and position as desired. Start the tDCS session and monitor current and time remaining using the LED lights on the tDCS device

More detailed instructions are included with the Go Flow 4 and should be read carefully before use.

While most tDCS scenarios (called “montages”) use two electrodes and a current of two milliamps or less, the Go Flow 4 has some advanced capabilities that permit the use of four electrodes simultaneously, a current of up to four milliamps, and a special mode call slow oscillating tDCS (sotDCS.)  More on these in my next post.

Using the Go Flow 4

My experience with the Go Flow 4 is very positive. It is easy to use, very convenient, great for portable and travel use, and delivers predictable and reliable tDCS sessions. I love that you no longer need to disconnect the battery after use as a prior version of the Go Flow required.  

Before you buy this or any tDCS device, do your homework.  tDCS is not for everyone. Read about tDCS (google search at least) and decide if it is right for you. I can also suggest you visit:

www.speakwisdom.com
www.caputron.com
www.foc.us
www.diytdcs.com
reddit.com/r/tdcs

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Solid Advice on Selecting foc.us V2 Device and Accessories

Introduction

Foc.us, the London based small business that keeps innovating in the DIY tDCS* and brain stimulation space now has a number of products in their line.  Some people are confused about which parts and pieces to buy in order to have the right stuff to move ahead with a tDCS treatment (or other) program.  I thought I could help a little with this blog post.

The V2 Brain Stimulation Device

First, you will need a foc.us V2 stimulator device. The device currently sells for about $199 and with current firmware is far beyond any of the competition in terms of versatility, capability, portability, etc. I won’t take time here to list all of the MANY things the V2 can do, but suffice it to say that manufacturers of “professional grade” tDCS, tACS, etc. equipment are probably nervous about where foc.us is driving prices and capabilities! In my opinion, the V2 is THE brain stimulation device to buy at its price point.

Note: Though the V2 can be controlled via an IOS or Android device, it’s not really necessary. The V2 on-screen display and joystick will quickly and easily let you access V2 setup and features.

IMG_1530
(The foc.us V2. In my opinion, a great brain stimulation device.)

Electrodes

Next, you need electrodes. Foc.us offers FOUR different electrode options for you to choose from:

Option 1: The Gamer Headset.

IMG_1574
(The Gamer headset with sponges removed. Sponge holders can be separated from the metal band for added versatility.)

This is probably the best choice for most stimulation (tDCS) situations. It consists of two sponge electrodes mounted on a flexible band. The electrode “holders” can bend inward to place the electrodes properly on the forehead. HOWEVER, I find it best to remove the electrode holders from the band and use an elastic headband to position the electrode sponges as desired.  The Gamer headset does NOT restrict electrode placement – you just need to add your own elastic band.

IMG_1570
(Look closely at this pic and you will see the Gamer electrode holders have been removed from the included metal band. Instead they are placed on my test head using an elastic band – in this case for the savant montage.)

Option 2: The EDGE Headset.

This option should ONLY be selected IF you are interested in researching brain stimulation and its possible impact of athletic performance. This is a special-purpose (not general purpose) headset. The electrode placements are unusual and will not address the needs of most tDCS users.

img_1556
(The EDGE headset showing the main electrode at the top and the secondary electrode that would be attached to the upper arm at the bottom. This is a special purpose brain stimulation headset.)

Option 3: Moovs Stick-on Gel Electrodes

This is a new option from foc.us. It is a pair of electrodes that adhere to open areas of skin (NOT HAIR or through hair.) Because of this, they are a bit limited in terms of where they can be placed. They are light and very comfortable – and do stick to skin well. But if part of your treatment montage involves placing electrodes over hair – you should select the GAMER sponge headset (or option 4 below) instead. Remember, the Gamer electrodes can be placed anywhere with an elastic band.

150721-moovs
(The Moovs stick-on electrodes. Image from the foc.us website.)

Option 4: Your Own Electrodes

I and many other brain stimulation researchers and testers have been very pleased with the line of sponge electrodes from Amrex. Most of us use the 3×3 Amrex, but sometimes the smaller 2×2 is useful.  The Amrex sponge electrodes are not cheap, but they are built to last. Foc.us to their credit makes it EASY to use your own electrodes, whatever you prefer, via a simple adapter cable (about $10 from foc.us). The cable allows you to plug in “TENS” compatible connecting wires, including those that have banana plugs for the Amrex electrodes. You can buy electrodes, wires, and more at almost any medical supply house – and via Amazon!

amrex3x3
(The Amrex 3×3 is shown. It consists of a rubber shell, stainless wire screen, and a sponge. Connection is via a banana plug to a jack at the top of the electrode.)

Summary

The foc.us V2 represents the best capability I am aware of for DIY tDCS (and brain stimulation) users. Yes, there are many less expensive devices (tDCS) in the market and they are appropriate for those on limited budgets, just starting out with tDCS, etc. But if you want the most capability for your future brain stimulation needs, I don’t know of a better product in the market right now. Remember, you will need a foc.us V2 and electrodes.  If you buy it all from foc.us you will spend around $300.  If you choose to use your own electrodes (and connecting wires), you can spend a little less (total.)

Caveat

As I have mentioned, foc.us is a SMALL company based in London doing incredibly innovative work in the field of brain stimulation technology – with a focus (pardon the pun) on the DIY marketplace (not the multi-million dollar grant driven labs.) I believe they have become somewhat overwhelmed by their own success. So YOU may encounter slow service on any special request you make of foc.us (tech support, returns, etc.)  Be prepared to be patient. The foc.us web site also is overly complicated by its attempts to be trendy. I suggest you hit the “All Products” link at the top left as a starting point.

By the way, foc.us will not diagnose or prescribe treatment for you – so don’t be upset if they ignore such requests. Do your homework on tDCS (brain stimulation), become informed, and make your own carefully considered decisions about brain stimulation and its appropriateness for your situation.

See the following for more information on tDCS:

www.speakwisdom.com

www.diytdcs.com

www.reddit.com/r/tdcs

www.transcranialbrainstimulation.com

*tDCS is transcranial direct current stimulation

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)