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

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(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.

 

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(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.

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(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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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.

Critical Junction – Motivating Teachers

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I recently attended a meeting at which a group of educators were discussing STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and how to recruit qualified teachers and raise the performance of current Georgia classroom teachers. In this meeting, a good bit of attention was given to all of the online training resources that are being developed or are already in place.

I raised the question, “How will teachers be motivated to put time and energy into learning new things via these online resources – to improve their skills as teachers and improve classroom outcomes?” Silence.

Let us first agree that their are many excellent, motivated teachers who gladly put in extra effort to be the best they can be in the classroom. They are not the concern. It’s the other end of the bell-curve that worries me. There is a reason Georgia has a 35% dropout rate and 490 math SAT average – part of it is teachers that see their work as just a job or frankly who are not sufficiently skilled or motivated to be in the classroom anyway.

Anyone who has worked with Georgia teachers for any length of time will have encountered individuals with difficulty forming a syntactically correct sentence, frequently misspell words, still don’t know the difference in left and right-click, etc. They leave one wondering how they made it through college and into the teaching profession. How does one motivate these teachers to put in the extra work (time) to upgrade their skills? I’m asking the question – I don’t pretend to have the answer.

It is a critical question.

I do know that we must convince underperforming teachers that it is in everyone’s interest that they do their part to help turn our system of education around. As we move into the age of wireless devices in the hands of every child, teachers will be called upon to teach in new ways. Motivating kids and helping them become education consumers (responsible for their own learning) will be chief among their new roles.

How do we make this happen? Or do we simply continue to consign 35% or more of our children to lives of mediocrity and want? I heard an interview with Condoleezza Rice over the weekend in which she commented that public education has reached the point where the success or failure of a child (and ultimately adult) can be predicted by their zip code.

Why aren’t Americans outraged by this? Oh that’s right, American Idol is on…