My New Neuro Toy
Hack your brain for fun and profit with tDCS. This post also references reports on the positive effects tDSC is having with autistics. Warning: If you plan on doing this yourself, RTFM (read the freaking manual! Links provided)
 

About two years ago I listened to a very interesting radio cast about Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)

The short version is this: Plug a 9-volt battery into your brain (the right way) and ... viola! ... you’re a sharpshooter in 15 minutes, or a math wiz, or whatever… depending on where and how you “plug in”.

Not one to shy away from hacking my brain (ignoring the few ‘system crashes’ that has resulted in), I immediately set out to build one of these neuro-toys.

For about $30 I built this slick (by my standards), hi-tech (also by my standards) marvel. I was ready to plug-in, turn-on, and kick-ass, exactly how, I was not sure … but I was sure it was going to be awesome.

 

tdcs-kit.png

 

What was awesome was the incredible headache I managed to create due to my not having a clue about what I was doing. Apparently, I zapped my brain with too much juice for too long. I was never much for patience.

A little rest and some Ibuprofen and I was good to go for round 2 … but this time I decided to do a little research first.

For those interested, I have published my notes here.  (also included at the bottom) They are a work in progress and some parts are missing or incomplete, but it provides some useful information and very good links.

I am not 100% percent sure if this ‘did’ anything because I felt totally normal when getting zapped. I was hoping to feel bigger/faster/smarter/better… but I didn’t. This was the same experience the reporter had when she went from being a bumbling nerd to a one-person ninja strike force. She felt no different and was convinced her testers had moved her to a more ‘appropriate’ (i.e. dumbed down) challenge based on her very poor results from the same test without TDSC.

This alone is very interesting. It’s like the opposite of drugs (from Prozac to cocaine), where the user feels the change, they feel different. In this case, the user feels the same and they perceive their external reality to have changed. This is a pretty huge difference, as the drug-induced state implicitly gives authority or validity to the cause (to which the user is responding to). This is a state that inevitably makes one susceptible to external circumstances, rather than keeping the center of intention (yes, that's intention, not attention) within one's own control.

There are a number of TDCS devices out there, or you can build your own if you're a DIY sorta person.

In my case, it did seem to have an effect on my ability to solve puzzles. I tried to learn to type using this method, and again, I would say there was a definite improvement … but not enough, because after a few days I was SO BORED with the exercises that I could not stay awake more than two minutes once I started. If could not learn to type practicing thirty minutes a day for one week, well, it’s just not going to happen. Maybe I needed more voltage.

So why am I talking about this at all? Because only very recently has TDCS been used with autistics, with pretty remarkable results! [1][2][3]

OK, I have been told my posts are way too long, so I will stop here (but this really seems too short, even for an ADD-ite like myself).

 

(Cut and paste of Google Drive document https://docs.google.com/document/d/1i60IKDY1dyQjBAmuFe9NjhDVysx1sP87kSRkhVrRoqs/edit?usp=sharing)

The TCDS device used in my experiments is shown here-> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C4AOq2boQk


 

If you are experimenting with DIY TDCS, obviously, the first thing you will want to know about is where to place the electrodes on your skull, and, if using monopolar techniques, where the on your body the non-skull electrode should go.

 

This manual is the result of my searching through reams of real medical research to see what they did, and how things turned out.

 

It is very important for the reader to know I am not a doctor (I am an IT consultant), and I am offering no advice of my own.  Everything stated here is from other (referenced) sources.

 

A very good discussion group in the subject is http://www.reddit.com/r/tDCS

 

The Basics.

 

The first thing you will need to know is the terminology that you will see.  There are three types of terminology we will use here: 10-20, Lobes and Cortex

 

The International 10-20 System (of electrode placement) .  

This is the ‘map’ used internationally to describe where electrodes are placed on the skull.  Here is the map (NASION is the front of the head, INION is the back).

 

673px-21_electrodes_of_International_10-20_system_for_EEG.svg.png

 

10-20_sys.gif


 

Lobes

The second terminology used is the names of the various parts of the ‘lobes’, and are also used to describe where, on the skull, the electrodes are placed to affect these parts of the brain.

 

The most general ‘lobe map’ looks like this:

 

human-brain.png

These areas are easily accessible as they connect directly with the skull.

 

Here is an overlay of the 10-20 map and the regional map.

 

1020C.gifareas.png

Cortex

The division of the brain by ‘cortex’ looks like this (by name and Broadman Name Area):

 

brodmann-areas-brain-cortex-en_medical512.jpg




 

Looking more inside the brain, we have other, less accessible areas…

 

Time.innerbrain.JPEG


 

Placement most common for TDCS

 

tdcs_placements.jpeg

tdcs_placements_side.jpeg



 

For more easy to understand maps of the brain, visit http://cognitrn.psych.indiana.edu/busey/Q301/BrainStructure.html

 

10-20 positioning manual -> http://www.trans-cranial.com/local/manuals/10_20_pos_man_v1_0_pdf.pdf

 

A more details map, which shows the popular point F10

http://static.wixstatic.com/media/cf0be0_266aacf5168346bb870b68342c75c302.jpg_srz_281_196_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz

 

looks like this

 



 

Terms

 

You will see labels like left DLPFC’.  This stands for “Left DorsoLateral PreFrontal Cortex”.  Looking at the Cortex map, we see that this translates to the F8 electrode location.

 

Other abbreviations you may see are:

FC = medial frontal cortex (Fz)

DLPFC = dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (F7 (left) & F8 (right)).

PFC = prefrontal cortex (Fp1 (left) & Fp2 (right))

etc...

 

You have two electrodes:

 

The Cathode

The cathode is a negative charge, also called the ‘return electrode’.

Cathodes are known to ‘hyperpolarize’ an area of the brain

 

Downregulation

Downregulation happens where cells become less sensitive to stimuli. These downregulated cells may be said to be “desensitized.  It appears that the cathode-side of the (bipolar) circuit downregulates that part of the brain.

 

Cathodes decrease cortical activity by 10-30%

 

The Anode

The anode is a positive charge, also called the ‘active electrode’.

Anodes are known to ‘depolarize’ an area of the brain.

 

Upregulation

Upregulation is a process that makes cells more responsive to stimuli.  It appears that the anode-side of the (bipolar) circuit (in bipolar circuits) upregulates that part of the bring.

 

Anodes increase cortical activity by 20-40%


 

The current moves from the anode to the cathode.  Where you place the anode and cathode determines the direction of the current.  This appears to be very important.

 

For example,  reversing the polarity on a montage that helps with depression can make you paranoid and sad.



 

Monopolar and Bipolar

A monopolar stimulation means one electrode (usually the anode) is place on the skull, and the cathode is place on the upper right or left arm.  In this configuration, the current can only flow into OR out of the brain, i.e. there is only downregulation OR upregulation of one part of the brain .  note: It is a good idea to keep all the cathodes above the line of the heart, as to not interfere with it’s electrical activity.

 

Bipolar stimulation is when both the anode and the cathode are placed on the brain, and the flow is both into AND out of the brain, i.e. there is downregulation of one part of the brain AND upregulation of another part of the brain.


 

Other very important assumptions

Whether you built your own TDCS device or bought it, we assume you will be working with power ranges in the .5 - 2 mA (milliAmps), and in general will keep your times of exposure to 20 minutes or less.

 

We also assume you will but will only be working on the surface of the skin ONLY (unlike the sailor, and winner of the the 1999 Darwin Awards, who stuck probes into his body, and promptly died)

 

We have looked for research that specifically uses a constant DC (Direct Current) that uses no waveforms, which are commonly used in brain stimulation and research.

 

Dangers

Although TDCS is non-invasive and considered quite safe, it is not 100% guaranteed to not be consequence-free.  There is still a lot of research being performed to better understand these consequences. Do you own research.






 

Tips

A common placement point is the left DLPFC, but stimulating this area can also lead people to tend towards anger and aggression

 

  • Don’t use too much salt in your saline solution.  It can irritate the skin. One suggestion is to use contact lens solution.  It is sterile and has a proper amount of sodium (very little). If you do not wash your sponges out after every use, the accumulation of sodium can cause headaches.

 

  • It may take some time for your brain to get used to this… so start slowly (.5 mA for 5 minutes, for example) and build slowly to, say 2mA for 20 minutes.  Starting too fast can cause headaches and ‘stimulation hangover’ (but a real term. I just use that term to describe how I have felt after overstimulation)

 

  • Know why you are putting the electrodes where you are putting them.  Mixing cathodes and anodes can have consequences. For example, Anode: F3 , and Cathode: F4 is a common anti-depression recipe, but reversing the anode and cathode can tend to make one depressed, paranoid and generally miserable.

 

  • It’s a good idea to keep a journal


 

 


Depression Montage

Warning: Reversing the anode and cathode can tend to make one depressed, paranoid and generally miserable.

 

Anode / Cathode = F3 / F4

sm_f3-f4.png

 

 


The “Happy Buddha” Montage

This combines TDCS and meditation.  Place Anode at OZ and cathode at FpZ, and follow the meditration ast shown here -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz7cpV7ERsM

sm_oz_fz.png

The study is not the same as the one I use, I’ve tried both montages, and I personally found that the variation with cathode at FpZ works better in conjunction with meditation)

 

 


Insight montage

This montage seems to create insight into problem solving

 

Anode: right anterior temporal lobe (F8)

Cathode: left anterior temporal lobe (F7)

Time: 20 minutes

sm_f8-f7.png

it has also been claimed that stimulation of the Right Anterior Temporal Lobe - (F8) as well as de-stimulation of the Left Anterior Temporal Lobe (F7) enhances object recognition, and unlocks Snyder’s fabled “savant skills”.


 

and/or  

 

Anode: T1

Cathode: T3

(?? where is T1 on the 10-20?)

 

 


Motor Drive montage

This test seems to state that “bilateral tDCS over both primary sensorimotor cortices (SM1) yields more prominent effects on motor performance”.  Basicly, you can improve your motor control for things like using scissors, tying your shoes, etc.  So, this means

 

Anode: Right Sensory motor cortex (C4)

Cathode: Left Sensory motor cortex (C3)

Time: 20 minutes

sm_c4-c3.png

 


Math 5x faster

Can’t seem to find the actual montage, but bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) (left:F7, right:F8) is the area key to math abilities

 

(? where is Anode?)

 

and/or

 

Anode: P4

Cathode: P3

 

sm_p4-p3.png



 

General learning

http://tdcsplacements.com/placements/accelerated-learning/

stop mind chatter

http://www.reddit.com/r/tDCS/comments/1jjqlp/electrode_placement_for_temporarily_shutting_off/



 

 


Memory

Although TDCS show significant improvement in memory function it may also slow memory response time by about 10%.

Anode: F7

Cathode: Right Arm

sm_f7-ra.png

 


Language

searching

 

 


Observation

searching

 

 


Go-No-Go (quick decision making)

Anode: F7

Cathode: Right Arm

sm_f7-ra.png

 


Integration/Inter-relationships

searching

 

 


Pain

7X10cm sponge with anodal stimulation on CP5, and the cathode on my right shoulder, I get very noticeable effects.


 

 


Emotions

searching

 

 


Reduce depression and food cravings

Anode: F3 or maybe T3

Cathode: Opposite arm

 

sm_f3_ra.pngsm_t3-ra.png

 

 


Boosting Attention

Anode: Fp1 and Fp3

Cathode: neck

sm_f1_f3_bn.png

 


Improve Socialization

Anode: T4, T6, P4

Cathode: L shoulder

 

 


Improve Ability (whatever that means)

Anode:O1, OZ, O2

Cathode: C3 or back of neck

sm_t4-t6-p4.png

 


Improve Audio-Visual pitch discrimination

Anode: T3

Cathode: Right shoulder

sm_t3_rs.png

 


Enhance motor ability and reduce pain

Anode: C3 or C4

Cathode: Fp1 or Fp2

sm_c3-fp1.pngsm_c4_fp2.png

 


Reduce Wernicke’s Aphasia (improve comprehension) (see footnote “Article Eleven”)

Anode: T5

Cathode: T6

sm_t5-t6.png

 


Reduce Broca’s Aphasia (improve speech) (see footnote “Article Eleven”)

Anode: F5

Cathode: F6

(where are they?)   ,<= I have no recollection of what this note refers to

 

(see footnote “Article Eleven”)

 

 


Learning Guitar (and presumably other guitar-like stuff)

2mA.

SYSTEM= 10-20 electrode site

ANODE = P4 and F10. (where is F10)

CATHODE = left upper arm.

SPONGES = 13±2 cm²

START = 5 min before training

DURATION = 30 min

* in long run 1x30min is better than 2x30min but in short time 2x30min is better.

 

 


Out Of Body Experiences and/or Poker

There is no montage that specifically talk about this (that I have seen), however, the TPJ (temporoparietal junction) appears to be associated with OOBE .  It also seems associated with a poker players ability to bluff (and detect bluffing). This seems to be between (and a little behind) T3 and C3 on the left and T4/C4 on the right

 

The Left TPJ seems to be associated with ‘perspective’ while the Right TPJ is associated with “beliefs” and processing faces and bodies , and “for the purpose of constructing appropriate expectations and responses” (this is especially useful for poker players, who need to perfect the art of lying and the art of detecting a lie)

 

Based on this, Possible montages might be :

upreg (anodize) right TPJ, with no downreg (Cathode on arm)  or

upreg (anodize) right TPJ and downreg (cathodize) left TPJ

sm_oobe.pngsm_oobe2.png

 

Experiments and tools

 

Cambridge Brain Challenge for general cognitive challenges.

Speed Math Trainer Program   ya know…for math.

Mastermind Vedic Trainer another math trainer.

Snyder’s Savant Test  to see if you’re a savant.

Spreeder for speed reading.

Memrise for learning a foreign language.

 

http://cognitivefun.net

http://cambridgebrainsciences.com

http://neuronation.com

http://cognifit.com

http://brainturk.com

 

http://brainworkshop.sourceforge.net/

 

There is an interesting test to try out your new brain-zapping tool.   Simply connect all nine of these dots with just four straight lines without lifting your finger or retracing a line.

9dots.png

In one study, 0 out of 22 (not using TDCS) found the solution.  With TDCS (using the “Insight” montage listed above) 40% of them figured it out in 10 minutes.  





 

notes….

 

Stimulation of the DLPFC increases working memory as well as enhances mood.

Stimulation of the Right Anterior Temporal Lobe (as well as de-stimulation of the Left Anterior Temporal Lobe) enhances object recognition, and unlocks Snyder’s fabled “savant skills”.

Stimulation of Wernicke’s area improves language acquisition.

Stimulation of the Left Parietal Lobe improves math skills.

Stimulation of the Primary Motor Cortex increases motor learning and function.

 

TDCS guided using fMRI significantly accelerates learning

http://goo.gl/lY8J9

 

Zap your brain into the zone: Fast track to pure focus.

http://goo.gl/azttC

 

Can tDCS and TMS enhance motor learning and memory formation?

http://goo.gl/GOmWA

 

Brain Zaps Improve Math

http://goo.gl/swvXW

 

Transcranial Stimulation Shows Promise in Speeding Up Learning:

http://goo.gl/TjYQh

 

Reddit Forum

http://www.reddit.com/r/tDCS/


 

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] https://docs.google.com/document/d/1kIWl0umDnRIsKHRzrqkQu8BPqVZq6h-MTJ6LsFrLnD4/pub

[2] http://www.hindawi.com/journals/bn/2014/173073/

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24342925