Go Flow Pro, Nice Brain Stimulation Kit!

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a fan of foc.us. The small London based DIY company has been on a serious innovation binge since they entered the market with the foc.us V1 – which was by far the most versatile tDCS* device in its time. Later foc.us released the V2 which is still one of the most capable brain stimulation devices on the market (not just tDCS.)  Late last year, foc.us introduced the Go Flow – a simple, very portable, tDCS device for a very low price. It has evolved into a complete kit that the company is calling the Go Flow Pro – it includes all you need to have a very capable tDCS device that is  simple to operate – and only $99 complete.

foc.us was kind enough to send me a pre-production Go Flow Pro and I thought you might like to see what it looks like. The final production kits (that should ship very shortly) may be slightly different (given production tweaks, marketing decisions, etc.)

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(Pre-production Go Flow Pro kit. tDCS device, battery, wires,stick-on and sponge electrodes, and headband. Not shown are the sponges – also included.)

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(Here is the Go Flow Pro on set up with my test head.  Note that the new magnetic attach wires and sponge electrode shell in use the with the foc.us headband. )

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(The new headband has several “button holes”. The electrode shells are place in the desired button holes for the montage desired. The magnetic wire sticks to the electrode shell and plugs into the Go Flow tDCS device.  Away you go!)

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(Here is the whole setup again showing the headband and cathode electrode attached to the shell – the anode is out of view. BTW the strap can go under the chin and over the head if needed. I can imagine some montages will require two straps.)

I’ll have much more to say about the Go Flow Pro and how it can be used to nudge the brain in desirable ways in my next post.  The Go Flow Pro can be purchase directly from http://www.foc.us or http://www.caputron.com Final production units should be shipping in May.

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(A foc.us sponge electrode – top – and a Caputron 2×2 sponge electrode – nearly identical sponge surface area.)

*tDCS is transcranial direct current stimulation. See my blog (www.speakwisdom.com) or http://www.diytdcs.com for more information.

 

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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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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)

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
(
Typical electrode placement for depression treatment.)

DSCN0071
(
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
(
Electrodes are placed on the temples)

DSCN0075
(
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.)

DSCN0077
(
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
(
There are other variations of “learning” electrode placements on the web.)

DSCN0071
(
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
(
One of the reported chronic pain montages.)

DSCN0087
(
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 foc.us tDCS Headset, Part 2, Electrode Basics

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(foc.us tDCS headset showing “built-on” electrodes and sponges)

Impressive – But…

I continue to be very impressed with the new foc.us tDCS headset.  It brings to the table a huge array of features in a package that is relatively user-friendly (and will become more-so when its iOS and Android apps are available.)  If your interest is learning enhancement or treatment of depression, the headset alone is probably all you need.  So far, I have found it easy to use and reliable.

The accessory kit adds capabilities for placing electrodes in other locations on the head and shoulders for treatment of chronic pain, experimenting with “savant” learning, and other research projects. In this blog post, I want to briefly summarize the basics of electrode use using the “built-on” and accessory electrodes. I have also included a summary of basic operation for those curious about using the headset (or those having trouble understanding the manual.)

Electrode Placement

The “built-on” electrodes place the anode above the left eye and high on the left forehead (two sponges.)  The cathode is in the same positions but on the right side.  These positions, while perhaps not “ideal” in the eyes of some are probably close enough to published locations for learning enhancement and depression treatment for many or most users.  For depression, some have a preference for moving the cathode off to the right shoulder, but that requires the accessory kit. The headset itself is quite capable and will probably satisfy the needs of most.

Using the External Electrodes

You have to give foc.us some applause.  They designed a LOT of capability in to a fairly inexpensive package.  This is the first really versatile tDCS device that has a clean, simple design, has high ease-of-use – and doesn’t cost a fortune as many other “commercial” offerings do.  tDCS is now within reach of many more who really need it! For those not satisfied with the built-on electrodes, you can do your own thing for special treatments or research with the accessory kit.  It includes necessary wires (and other items) along with a small number of “TENS” style stick-on electrodes.

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(Cathode wire plugged into the back of the headset)

Important: The Wires

The kit includes a two-wire (anode & cathode) lead with good length, allowing placement pretty much as you see fit.  Uniquely, there is a single wire anode and single wire cathode included too. These are very useful when you want to use the built-on anode (or cathode) and have the opposite charge applied at a different location.  As mentioned, for depression, users may prefer the built-on anode, but want the cathode placed on the right shoulder.  The single cathode wire makes this simple to do.

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(Leads plug in to the back of the headset)

CAUTION: Voltage continues to be available via the built-on electrodes even if one of the accessory leads is plugged in.  You will need to remove the appropriate sponges (cathode or anode) when using an accessory wire.  So for example, a person seeking to treat depression would leave the anode (left) sponges in place, remove the cathode sponges (right side), and then use the cathode wire to place an electrode on the right shoulder.

If you leave sponges out, you need to be VERY CAREFUL that skin cannot come in contact with the copper plate inside the sponge holder (from an odd skin-wrinkle or tag.) If it does, a burn could result. An accessory CAP of some kind would be a nice safety feature – to cover the unused sponge holders. Perhaps the iOS/Android apps will allow disabling unused built-on electrodes – we’ll have to wait and see.  Safety caps would still be a good idea.

CAUTION: The plus and minus marking on the anode and cathode leads is BARELY visible and could easily lead to an error.  I suggest MARKING the leads in some much more visible manner (I used red and black zip-ties for the purpose.)

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(Can you see the minus sign on the back of the electrode clip?)

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(You will want to clearly mark lead polarity. Zip ties work.)

Coming in Part 3

In my next blog post I’ll have more information on operation, use, electrode placements, and more.  Please feel free to send along any questions or comment.  I’ll try to address those in the next post or two.  brent@speakwisdom.com

FYI: Summary of Basic Operation

Make sure the headset is charged

  1. Switch in “W” position
  2. Green light indicates charging

Turn it ON

  1. Flick the switch to the “O” position
  2. Touch the sensor (center back of the headset) for TWO SECONDS to activate it
  3. If you touch the sensor for three seconds or longer, the headset enters pairing mode (fine if desired, otherwise, switch to “W” then back to “O” and return to 1. above.)

To BEGIN a tDCS Session Already Configured

  1. Touch the sensor ONCE
  2. A four second count-down begins (time to put the headset on!) Current then ramps up to the desired level (more below.)
  3. Current will automatically ramp down at the end of the session

To END a tDCS Session

  1. Touch the sensor
  2. Switch to the “W” position to turn off the headset

Changing Session Settings

Set Mode

  1. Turn the headset on (switch set to “O”)
  2. Hold the sensor for two seconds to activate the headset
  3. Tap the sensor TWICE
  4. The headset will cycle through its four modes
    1. DC Sine-Wave – Logo brightness will rise and fall over 5 seconds
    2. Constant DC (DEFAULT) – Logo remains on for 5 seconds
    3. Pulsed Current (0.5 mA min) – Logo brightens and dim in 5 seconds
    4. Random Noise (0.5 mA to max random) – Logo brightness changes erratically
  5. When the logo reaches the state you desire, touch the sensor ONCE

Current Setting

  1. Next, the Logo will glow for three seconds at each of the below. Press the Logo to select.
    1. 0.5
    2. 1.0
    3. 1.5
    4. 2.0 (Only settable for use with external electrodes)
  2. Once current is set, foc.us headset returns to the ready state. You can begin a tDCS session by touching the sensor ONCE or…

To Confirm Settings

  1. Touch the sensor THREE times and the above Logo displays will appear for confirmation.

Factory Reset

  1. Touch and hold the sensor for 30 seconds.

The New foc.us tDCS Headset, Part 1

Let the Healing Begin!

The long-awaited arrival of consumer-oriented tDCS devices has begun.  I received one of the first shipments of the innovative and interesting foc.us headsets (www.foc.us) and want to share with you my initial thoughts. Be prepared, there is a lot of ground to cover, so I will do it over a few shorter blog posts rather than one giant one. While marketed as a “gamer” accessory (probably to limit FDA flack), this headset offers great potential to those seeking a tDCS device to help with depression, enhanced learning, and more.

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First, what the heck is tDCS? Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation is a ground-breaking technology that allows for simple, nearly side-effect free treatment of depression, chronic pain, enhancement of learning and memory, and more.  For more details on the basics of tDCS, please see the articles on my blog, www.speakwisdom.com.  I also suggest www.diytdcs.com and www.transcranialbrainstimulation.com.

The foc.us headset is not the first attempt to get a consumer-oriented (read user-friendly) tDCS device into the market. www.biocurrent.kit offers a less expensive, less-elegant, but very versatile solution for those seeking a tDCS device. There are also lots of do-it-yourself schematics and plans for tDCS devices available via the internet.  Your choices now boil down to a DIY device for about $50, the biocurrent kit for about $200, the foc.us headset for about $300, a repurposed iontophoresis device for about $350, or more expensive research devices ranging from about $500 to $5000!

Is the foc.us headset perfect? No! But it is a wonderful start to what will likely grow to become a “standard” as new features are added and annoying bugs are worked out.

Let’s start at the beginning! Unpacking!

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(The larger box is the headset kit, the smaller is the optional accessory kit)

The foc.us headset arrives in an attractive and professionally prepared box. Inside is a travel and storage case containing the headset, sponges, USB charging cord, a small bottle for water, instructions, and foc.us stickers (ala Apple.)

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(The case containing the foc.us headset and other essential items)

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(The headset resting in its travel and storage case)

If you purchase the accessory kit, you receive a second smaller box containing electrode wires, some “TENS” style stick-on electrodes, a stand for your headset, some extra sponges for the headset, and a nice carry bag.

IMG_4673

(The accessory kit)

Charge the Headset

Before you start fiddling, I suggest a good charge of the headset. Just plug the USB charger cord into the bottom of the headset and some convenient USB ac-adapter (or PC) and give it a couple of hours. Make sure the switch on the bottom is set to “W”.  Oddly the headset uses “O” for on and “W” for off.  First suggestion for version two – use the internationally recognized 1 and 0 for on and off.

Electrode Position

The comfortable and light headset has a “fixed” position for its electrodes. placing them on the forehead and upper forehead. The position selected by foc.us will be of interest to a large audience. Why? It happens to correspond nicely to an accepted location for treatment of depression (yes, there are others) and a position described in various studies for learning enhancement. Electrode placements not addressed by the headset itself are handled with the wire electrodes in the accessory kit. I’ll have much more on electrode placement later.

For the slightly technical, you will want to know that the left electrodes (sponges) are the ANODE and the right are the CATHODE.  Two electrodes on each side? Think of it as a way to have one larger sponge on each side covering more of the frontal lobe area.

Shocking!

For those who may have already been using a DIY tDCS device built around an LM334 or current limiting diode (CLD), you are in for a bit of a shock (almost literally).  The inverter circuitry of the foc.us headset allows voltage to rise as high as 60 volts (according to the specs) to overcome resistance between the anode and cathode.  I measured 65 volts between the electrodes with no load (head) in place. Dangerous? No, since current is limited to 2 mA.  But the charge can feel uncomfortable! Most DIY tDCS devices are built around a simple current limiting device so electrode voltage can never rise above that of the source battery – so no discomfort from a higher voltage – but they also need really good electrode to skin contact.

To avoid irritation, you’ll want to make sure your foc.us electrodes are wet (not dripping) and placed flat against your forehead and upper forehead.

Basic Operation

The included instruction manual does a good job of providing basic operating instructions.  It does not go into details of electrode placement, tDCS theory, etc.  That information can come from other sources.  The main operating control is a “touch button” on the back of the headset.  It allows setting treatment type, current level, and starting and stopping treatment sessions. Default session length is 10 minutes.

Much of the versatility in treatment customization will come via the iOS and Androids foc.us apps (not yet released as of this writing.)

Part 2 and Beyond

There is MUCH to cover about the foc.us headset.  I’ll discuss day-to-day operation, electrode placements, use of the iOS app (when it becomes available) and much more.  Stay tuned! You may find this is the tDCS device you have been waiting for!