tDCS stands for Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation. It is a technology that has been known among neuroscientists for more than a century and is only now regaining popularity. tDCS was first used as a clinical therapy to ease depression. These days, scientists are making use of tDCS to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease and related neurodegenerative disorders.
How does tDCS work?
The basic concept revolves around placing two electrodes (anode + cathode) on the human scalp. Powered by a simple 9V battery, one then induces a really small current (i.e. <2 mA) which then runs across the electrodes on the head.
That’s it! It is so simple anyone with a technical understanding can build one themselves and apply it on themselves (I wouldn’t recommend doing it on your own).
How does tDCS affect your brain?
A current flow is established via the electrodes which are placed in the specific areas of interest on the scalp. All neurons in the brain are connected with each other via a huge network. The current flow will then increase or decrease the neuronal excitibality in the chosen region. Remember that neurons make up a vast network inside our brain and are responsible for our thinking processes. Exciting areas of the brain via a small current has been shown to improve the neuroplasticity if applied correctly. A change in neuroplasticity correspons to an alteration of brain function whose positive effects can be used in therapy or for brainhacking yourself.
The benefits that are to be had from tDCS are very promising when it comes to enhancing your cognitive abilities. To assure people who are skeptical of tDCS – this is a safe technology. It is generally accepted among experts a safe method of brain stimulation and there aren’t any known negative effects.
Most importantly, neuronal stimulation using tDCS has been shown to increase learning rates by 2.5 x when used in snipers and drone pilots in the US military. There is also evidence that suggests that tDCS improves memory formation. With more studies to prove that tDCS improves motor learning skills, it crystallises that tDCS can essentially be used as a BRAINDOPING technology to speed up learning.
Personally, I am currently taking Physiology class at the University Hopsital Hamburg. Besides learning about the basic physiological processes happening inside our brain, I am also in contact with the EEG department who are beginning to use tDCS more extensively in their studies. I am really excited about this because getting a chance to work with professionals gives my interest into tDCS a much wider horizon.
Where can you get it
So far tDCS machines were hard to find below $600 and needed subscription but two biohacker guys from the US are close to releasing their affordable tDCS device for $99. It is so cool to see guys at my age letting their tDCS passion thrive in their own startup company.
It is definitely possible to cut the cost even further as tDCS technology requires a bare minimum of building blocks.