tDCS - cognitive enhancement and depression treatment

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tDCS - cognitive enhancement and depression treatment

Postby NetiNeti on July 14th, 2015, 8:05 am 

A few months ago, I came across an article about tDCS.
tDCS stands for "transcranial direct current stimulation".

The technology is astonishingly simple. In fact, it is so simple and the claims associated with it so profound that at first I though it was the latest in snake oil tech.

It is not.
There are quite a few properly conducted, peer reviewed double blind studies done by multiple teams at multiple universities that all come to similar conclusions:
By applying a direct current of 2mA to the skull via two electrodes at defined places, people can be successfully treated for depression or even cured from it.

It has also been shown to produce significant cognitive enhancement.
There is a DARPA study for example, repeated by other teams, that demonstrates that snipers can learn almost twice as fast when treated with tDCS. They use a different montage (i.e. electrode placement) from the depression montage.

This is still a very young field with a lot of research being done.

There is a very active community of usually well-informed laymen who experiment with different montages. People in the DIY (do it yourself) community usually play it safe and don't just use any montage they come up with but rather study the latest research and use the montages that have been found effective or at least promising.

The technology is very safe. You only apply 2mA to the skull. What actually ends up at the brain is a fraction of this (it has to pass the skull and tissues first).
tDCS is not at all comparable to ECT (electroconvulsive therapy, also known as electroshock therapy). In ECT the entire brain is given an electric shock to artificially induce seizures. ECT uses currents of 600mA and higher applied to the entire brain.
tDCS, however, uses significantly lower currents (between 1-2mA is standard, 2.5mA max) applied to specific regions of the brain for usually 20min per session.

After I read all of that I was intrigued.
I have had depression on and off for the last 10 years (no manic episodes), but pretty consistent in the last 2 years. After I was reasonably sure that it was safe (the brain is a rather important organ in the human body in general and I make my living with a well working one) I obtained a tDCS device. They are not expensive. They consist of one or two 9V batteries with a few resistors and a current stabilizer (usually a CRD) - that's all. Any electronic hobbyist can build one very easily.

I have now been using it for 2 weeks and I am seeing exactly the effects as described by the studies and the DIY community. My mood has been significantly elevated. That started after about 3 days and has increased since then (the effect of tDCS is accumulative).
But most importantly for me, this annoying inner voice that would constantly criticize everything and everybody around me (and especially myself) has virtually stopped entirely. After just a few days of treatment!
So far, I have experienced no adverse effects, only positive ones.
My wife and others have also noted a significant change in my mood and disposition.

I am only posting this to share this with you.
It seems to me that intelligent people are more prone to depression, so this forum seemed a good place to share.

I am not associated with any tDCS related institution or company.

As I said, this is a rather young field and research is at the beginning, especially as far as cognitive enhancements are concerned. The tDCS depression treatment and electrode placement has been well confirmed and is successfully used by an increasing number of people.

If you are interested, you'll have to do your own research.
Just do an internet search for tDCS (and depression for example) and take it from there.

Here's a link to the DIY community on reddit:
http://www.reddit.com/r/tDCS/

This might be a good starting post (not mine):
http://www.reddit.com/r/tDCS/comments/2adacm/collected_knowledge_from_a_new_tdcs_convert/
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Re: tDCS - cognitive enhancement and depression treatment

Postby Darby on July 14th, 2015, 10:22 am 

I haven't read up enough on the latest advances in Electroshock therapy to comment cogently, so hopefully someone who has will chime in.

Meanwhile, but I couldn't resist linking a clip from one of my favorite movies ...

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Re: tDCS - cognitive enhancement and depression treatment

Postby Braininvat on July 14th, 2015, 11:26 am 

NetiNeti, I remember following Michael Persinger's work on TMS, a related area of study which uses a helmet that generates magnetic fields outside the cranium. His work, at Laurentian U. up in Canada, focused on religious experiences that could be elicited by temporal lobe stimulation, but TMS is also being studied in regard to treating depression. Here's an old article on TMS and what some called "the God Helmet" ...

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/brai ... _tech.html

TDCS seems much more accessible, for the home market, thanks to its simplicity and resulting affordability.

I would say, in terms of your personal anecdotal experience, that it's good to remember the power of the placebo effect in any treatment of depression, which is why experimental design must be rather painstaking in eliminating its influence. I will look at the current research. And, of course, I am happy that you are getting relief from depression. As you say, it is often the affliction of choice for intelligent people. In South Dakota, we have a powerful treatment for depression, called "winter's over." The old joke here is that we have two seasons: Winter, and Roadwork.
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Re: tDCS - cognitive enhancement and depression treatment

Postby Darby on July 14th, 2015, 11:32 am 

Youtube clip aside, depression is no laughing matter (pun intended).

It runs in my family, but due to due to complex medical reasons most of the currently available meds are counter indicated in my case. It would be theoretically awesome if people like us could just slip a wire and sub-dermal watch battery into our scalp, but sadly the technology isn't there, and perhaps never will be.

My usual modus operandi for depression is that every Lent I give up all hope. {rimshot}

Oh, and yes, I saw a documentary on the 'god helmet' a few months back ... very interesting, but no direct therapeutic applications as of yet. If I recall, they only managed to mimic the feeling of a 'presence' being nearby, and that's it.
Last edited by Darby on July 14th, 2015, 11:42 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: tDCS - cognitive enhancement and depression treatment

Postby Braininvat on July 14th, 2015, 11:34 am 

I'm reading this overview, when I get a chance.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3270156/

I've gotten as far as the History section, which includes the interesting fact (and mental image) that the earliest usage of this method dates to Roman times when placing a torpedo fish on the scalp was known to relieve headaches.
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Re: tDCS - cognitive enhancement and depression treatment

Postby NetiNeti on July 14th, 2015, 11:43 am 

Braininvat » July 15th, 2015, 2:26 am wrote:I would say, in terms of your personal anecdotal experience, that it's good to remember the power of the placebo effect in any treatment of depression, which is why experimental design must be rather painstaking in eliminating its influence.


I agree completely.
Also, there is virtually no treatment of any disease that works for everybody.

Whoever wants to try it needs to do his/her own research and take the personal history and conditions into account.

People with a pacemaker for example should probably stay away from any self-experimenting.
Be intelligent and diligent.
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Re: tDCS - cognitive enhancement and depression treatment

Postby NetiNeti on July 14th, 2015, 11:54 am 

Darby » July 15th, 2015, 2:32 am wrote:It runs in my family, but due to due to complex medical reasons most of the currently available meds are counter indicated in my case.


A common problem. For quite a few people antidepressants work not at all or badly or only temporarily. For others they just work. Many also have quite severe side effects and the come-down when you stop them is supposed to be horrendous.
Read the studies, Darby. TDCS has been found effective in people resistant to other treatments (including antidepressants).
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Re: tDCS - cognitive enhancement and depression treatment

Postby Darby on July 14th, 2015, 12:23 pm 

Thank you, but as I alluded below, I'm not really sold on the concept of non-specific electrical bombardment of one's neural pathways, regardless of intensity. To me, that's akin to trying to do precision needlepoint with a sledgehammer, and is thus still uncomfortably close to pseudoscience territory {read: crystals, reike, pyramid power, dowsing rods, therapeutic magnets, yadda yadda}.

I'd need to see some extremely erudite and impeccably run large scale double blind testing by properly trained and respected neuroscientists appear in a peer-reviewed format, and be well received (and independantly verified by) equally erudite peers, before I'd remotely consider hooking something like that to my noggin. I'd be more inclined to grate and snort fresh nutmeg before I do that.

Just my $0.02, not a swipe at anyone believing differently.
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Re: tDCS - cognitive enhancement and depression treatment

Postby NetiNeti on July 14th, 2015, 8:38 pm 

Braininvat » July 15th, 2015, 2:26 am wrote:NetiNeti, I remember following Michael Persinger's work on TMS, a related area of study which uses a helmet that generates magnetic fields outside the cranium. His work, at Laurentian U. up in Canada, focused on religious experiences that could be elicited by temporal lobe stimulation


Yes, I read about it and also saw a documentary about his study.
That documentary featured interviews with Persinger and some of his volunteers.

All he induced was a vague sense of presence in his subjects. That's all.
Nothing at all like a spiritual experience.
One subject even found that vague sense of presence rather spooky and unpleasant.

Only the very narrow mind of a reductionist and materialist can possibly describe this as a "religious experience".

A true spiritual experience is always experienced as profound and often as life-changing.
Over the years I have spoken to at least 30 people who had profound spiritual experiences, some even a Nirvikalpa samadhi.

They are nothing like what Parsinger induced in his subjects.
Not even remotely.
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Re: tDCS - cognitive enhancement and depression treatment

Postby BadgerJelly on July 15th, 2015, 1:49 am 

The vast majority of people who suffer from this kind of thing find drugs an unacceptable long term answer. Any other treatment is a welcome opening for them.
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Re: tDCS - cognitive enhancement and depression treatment

Postby BadgerJelly on July 15th, 2015, 2:28 am 

I remember watching a talk on TED about a brain surgeon who has a catatonic breakdown. They were about to perform something like a lobotomy but someone suggested EST and it brought him back.
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Re: tDCS - cognitive enhancement and depression treatment

Postby NetiNeti on July 15th, 2015, 3:02 am 

BadgerJelly » July 15th, 2015, 5:28 pm wrote:I remember watching a talk on TED about a brain surgeon who has a catatonic breakdown. They were about to perform something like a lobotomy but someone suggested EST and it brought him back.


I assume by EST you mean electroshock therapy?
tDCS is nothing like EST.
As I said in my OP:

tDCS is not at all comparable to ECT (electroconvulsive therapy, also known as electroshock therapy). In ECT the entire brain is given an electric shock to artificially induce seizures. ECT uses currents of 600mA and higher applied to the entire brain.
tDCS, however, uses significantly lower currents (between 1-2mA is standard, 2.5mA max) applied to specific regions of the brain for usually 20min per session.


AFAIK, there have been no reported cases of tDCS inducing a seizure. Current neurological knowledge seems to rule that out, given the very low currents utilized in tDCS.
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Re: tDCS - cognitive enhancement and depression treatment

Postby NetiNeti on July 15th, 2015, 3:07 am 

Here's an interesting TED talk by Maarten Frens, from the neuroscience dept of the University of Rotterdam:

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Re: tDCS - cognitive enhancement and depression treatment

Postby Braininvat on July 15th, 2015, 10:04 am 

A true spiritual experience is always experienced as profound and often as life-changing.
Over the years I have spoken to at least 30 people who had profound spiritual experiences, some even a Nirvikalpa samadhi.

They are nothing like what Parsinger induced in his subjects.
Not even remotely.


I was not making any metaphysical judgment. Some of Persinger's subjects reported a spiritual presence, usually in accord with their own particular beliefs. Other TMS researchers have noted this interpretation. It really says more about how people interpret anomalous impressions, than about any spiritual realm.
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