What is tDCS?
tDCS stands for Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation. It is a potentially revolutionary technique to non-invasively stimulate whole regions of the brain with a gentle electrical current (about 2 mA, barely enough to light an LED). It is being used around the world by people who want to improve their lives, be happier and more energetic. It is also being used to help people learn things faster. Even the US Military uses it to train drone pilots and snipers. Whether you are trying to learn a new language, pass your Calculus test, eliminate depression or aleviate pain, tDCS can potentially help you.
While tDCS is an experimental treatment and the technology behind it has not been approved by the FDA, there seems to be evidence that it is effective and safe when used correctly.
This video is a brief introduction to tDCS. There are many resources online where you’ll find independent information about it. We took the liberty to gather some of the available research and media articles about tDCS for your convenience. You can find them within our Knowledge Center section.
tDCS advantages over conventional treatments.
There are many reasons to give tDCS a try. It just makes sense.
How does it work?
tDCS works by applying a mild electrical current to specific regions of the brain using special implements called electrodes. The electrical current’s polarity and and where it is applied is crucial because the positive or anode electrodes and the negative or cathode electrodes have different effects on brain cells.
Brain cells that were exposed to positively charged electrical current become more electrically active. They become more likely to fire. That is what is called “priming”. The opposite is true, neurons exposed to negative electrical charge become less likely to fire or “inhibited”.
For example; if you apply positively charge current to a region of the brain responsible for mathematical thinking, it will become “primed” and if you study math while that area is active you will be more likely to learn and become better at math. The important thing to know is that tDCS does not do the work for you; you still have to do the thinking, the studying. Having your neurons primed right when you are trying to learn for that Calculus exam however may be just the extra edge you need to be successful at it.
There are many montages or positioning schemes that can be used to achieve different results. You can prime the areas of your brain responsible for creativity, motor skills, visual processing and much more. Depending on your goals and objectives, you may choose a montage and see how they affects you personally.
Neuroplasticity and tDCS.
We all know that practice makes perfect; if someone wants to play guitar really well they will have to spend some time practicing. The reason is because the brain has the ability to change its wiring and structure to adapt to each individual’s needs. That is what is called Neuroplasticity.
When we learn something new, our brain cells (neurons) fire electrical signals back and forth from different regions of the brain. At first, the path these signals take may be crooked and full of detours. With practice, the path between those neurons become straighter and wider and more easily accessible. The neurons develop new connections between each other and find the best most efficient routes to carry those signals that are on high demand. That is the reason why remembering how to move the correct fingers to the proper position to play a C major chord becomes almost second nature after practicing for a while.
With the help of tDCS, the neuron’s ability to communicate with each other improves dramatically. This accelerates the learning process significantly. Depending on where the electrical current is applied and its polarity, it inhibits and prime different brain regions with different results. People may be able quickly learn a new language or a new piano piece. They can learn how to be happy again by inhibiting the regions of the brain that cause depression or anxiety. Another example: if someone is trying to stop smoking; they can use tDCS to handle the psychological pressure and better resist the urge to smoke. The list of possible combinations and their effects is vast and there are many studies showing great promise for tDCS as a cognitive enhancement as well as a major alternative in the treatment of a myriad of neurological conditions.
The basic concept behind tDCS; using direct current (DC) to stimulate specific brain regions, has existed for over 100 years. There were a number of rudimentary experiments completed before the 19th century using this technique, most notably by the inventor of the chemical battery technology, Alessandro Volta and his partner Luigi Galvani; a renowned physicist who was the first to discover that central nervous system signals were electric in nature. They utilized the basic technology known today as tDCS in their explorations of the source of animal cell electricity. This led to the very first clinical tDCS studies.
More recently in the 1960s, studies by researcher D. J. Albert proved that tDCS could affect brain function by changing the cortical excitability. He also discovered that anodal and cathodal (positive and negative) stimulation had different effects on the brain’s cortical excitability as well. But the technique lay dormant until relatively recently. The rediscovery was primarily driven by an increase of interest and understanding of basic brain functioning, therapeutic application, as well as new brain stimulation and brain imaging techniques such as TMS and fMRI. Now, Transcranial direct current stimulation is beginning to be used more frequently as a brain stimulation technique because, with proper safety protocols, tDCS is safe for human use. (Source: Wikipedia)
Volta’s first chemical battery.
Choosing the right device.
In order to properly apply tDCS, you must have a good quality tDCS device and also high quality accessories. The device must deliver a steady electrical current (no waves) and it must allow the user to select de desired level of stimulation. Making sure your electrodes are the proper size, have the proper protection to insulate you from direct contact with metal surfaces is extremely important. Electrodes and cables are exposed to harsh saline and electrically charged conditions and also must be of good quality.
Another overlooked aspect of tDCS is the electrode positioning bands. Without a way to secure the electrodes in place, it will be virtually impossible to perform tDCS safely and effectively.
That is why ApeX Electronics offers solutions that will satisfy these needs and more. Check out our Product Features sections and see why the ApeX Type A may be the right choice for you.