Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), simply put, is an electrical stimulus applied to the exterior of a patient’s skull. This therapy was first used almost 2000 years ago when someone with a bad headache placed an electric ray on their head. Since then, the techniques and instrumentation have evolved and now in the present day we have small battery powered devices used to treat an array of conditions such as depression, anxiety, migraines, addiction, and even schizophrenia.
How is this possible?
The electric stimulation (which is only 1-2 milliamps) is applied through electrode pads which are polarized, one positive and one negative. With our advanced understanding of the brain’s functional anatomy, the electrode placement can be arranged to increase or decrease stimulation to specific regions, and thus functions of the brain. The desired effects are achieved by altering the brain’s resting membrane potential.¹ For example, if a region of the brain is desired to be “turned on” a positive stimulus to that area will heighten the resting membrane potential, requiring less input from the person themselves to activate that area. The same can be said for the reverse situation, an area of the brain whose function is desired to be decreased, when given a negative stimulus, will in-turn be more difficult to activate.
This treatment is incredibly safe. In clinical trials and reviews the only side effect recorded is occasional itching and tingling of the scalp where the electrodes are placed.²
This treatment is proven effective. Because of the ease in which a “sham” treatment can be done (leaving the machine turned off) randomized clinical trials are simple to perform and have demonstrated some great results, particularly with depression, anxiety, mild traumatic brain injuries (concussions), and patients who has suffered a stroke.³
Personally, in our office, we use 2 different brands of tDCS, “Brain Stimulator” and “Fisher Wallace” (full disclosure, I have no stake in either of these companies). The reasons for using 2 different models is because the “Fisher Wallace” has an alternating current, which seems to be more comfortable for a patient who is sensitive to the itchy, tingling scalp described earlier. It should be noted that a couple of studies show a superior outcome when using a direct current, used by the “Brain Stimulator”.
Please sent us a message or give us a call if you have any questions about the therapy or to schedule a consultation appointment.
1. Wilcox T, Hirshkowitz A. NIH Public Access. 2015;85(0 1):1-27. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.08.045.The
2. Poreisz C, Boros K, Antal A, Paulus W. Safety aspects of transcranial direct current stimulation concerning healthy subjects and patients. Brain Res Bull. 2007;72(4-6):208-214. doi:10.1016/j.brainresbull.2007.01.004
3. G. S, V. R, D. N. Transcranial direct current stimulation in stroke recovery. Arch Neurol. 2008;65(12):1571-1576. http://archneur.ama-assn.org/cgi/reprint/65/12/1571http://ovidsp.ovid.com/ovidweb.cgi?T=JS&PAGE=reference&D=emed8&NEWS=N&AN=2009108270.