July 25, 2012

Meet My New Girlfriend: tDCS

For many years, I've been interested in the possibility of what I call “technoboosts.”

A technoboost is something based in the physical sciences that would reliably accelerate the attainment of stream entry. I got the term “boost” from general relativity. Boost is what acceleration looks like in 4-D space-time. Some people claim that such technoboosts are currently available but none of the current candidates meet my criteria—not even close!

Our current systematic ways of bringing people to stream entry could be described generically as two-component systems. We give people certain ideas (darshana), and we give people certain practices (sādhanā). I envisage the possibility that, in the future, there might be a third component added: science/technology-based boosters (modern upāya).

The three components could work together to reliably and quickly bring deep results with, hopefully, a minimum of problematic side effects (“Dark Night” problems, etc.). I have no idea the specific form such technoboosts would take, but one possible paradigm would be to induce a precise spatio-temporal pattern of activation and deactivation (our old friend of simultaneous expansion/contraction). The pattern of activation/deactivation would give the students a strong taste of a desired state (such as no-self). They could then be trained to reproduce that on their own.

So I'm always interested in technologies that create patterns of activation and deactivation in the human brain, such as: neurofeedback, TMS, transcranial ultrasonic neuromodulation, and so forth.

Recently, several people have called my attention to a very simple and quite old form of neuromodulation that is currently gathering a lot of research momentum—transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).

Here’s why I’m excited about tDCS.

Qualitative Significance:
The effects of tDCS seem to map directly to the core themes in mindfulness.
  • Enhanced ability to focus (this seems to relate to the concentration piece in my definition of mindfulness)
  • Enhanced ability to detect signals against a noisy background (this seems to relate to the sensory clarity piece)
  • Enhanced ability to deal with pain (this may be related to equanimity)
  • The turning off of mental talk (i.e., a samatha effect)

Practical Feasibility:
As a process, tDCS…
  • Seems to produce the above effects reliably.
  • Apparently can both increase and decrease the average level of excitability for targeted populations of neurons (so, for example, it may be possible to simultaneously activate concentration and clarity switches while deactivating ego switches).
  • Seems safe (at least relative to other brain stimulation modalities).
  • Has a mechanism that is at least partially understood (seems to be related to long-term potentiation and long-term depotentiation).
  • Is technologically simple (stimulation devices involve very simple electronics--in fact, anyone can make their own crude but effective tDCS units using a 9-volt battery, a single resistor, and a couple sponges!).

I think this is an area where the meditators/mindfulness practitioners of the world could help push the envelope of neuroscience by getting involved with responsible research on the effects of tDCS. If you run into anything interesting, please add it in a comment on this blogpost. Also check out these guys, who are creating an online community of “body hackers” interested in this stuff. (I’ll leave it to your discretion to decide whether body hacking counts as responsible research ;) .)

Here are some links (Thank you to Mike Michaels for many of these resources):

Popular Articles

 Technical Articles

You Tube Videos

UPDATE - 7/12/13 - 
Hi folks, I wanted to update this blog post: Recently there’s been some concern about the safety issues because so many people have been experimenting on their own. Check it out:

DIY Brain Stimulation Raises Concerns


  1. Thanks for this Shinzen,
    I have interviewed Dave Siever from Mind Alive extensively and attended a training with him. I have used his tDCs system on my partner who was suffering from depression, to good effect. I'm trying it on myself now for focus and mood. Nothing to report yet.

  2. Hello Shinzen,

    Have you seen the work we're doing over at Liberation Unleashed? We've found a relatively easy way to help individuals attain stream entry with a simple form of dialogue over a publicly available forum. We call the process "direct pointing". It's completely apart from any meditative practices (although there is some overlap for some members).

    If you're interested, please say hello the groups our co-founder Ilona. She does most of the PR ;).

    1. URL here: http://www.liberationunleashed.com

    2. I should also mention that we have about 300 members in our "unleashed" group. Those are people we're reasonably sure have made the transition to stream entry via the direct pointing dialogue.

  3. Shinzen! This is such a great post! I'm glad to have such a clear breakdown of the tech as well as it's applications to share with friends.

    How long do you think it's appropriate to use such an aid in practice? At some point the student becomes free of the need to use such a device, much as they become free of the need for a teacher or even a "practice." Given that the brain is constantly reorganizing itself based on its present activity, tDCS has potential benefit far beyond simply giving new students a taste, while, like any tool, creating the possibility of more attachment to experience or progress. How do you relate to it?

    1. Hi Cameron,

      It is sometimes said that the really important thing in science is not so much coming up with the right answers, but rather coming up with the right questions. So congratulations! You're certainly asking the right questions.

      I don't have a clue as to the answers, but that is why I created this blogpost--to start to build an EVIDENCE-based dialogue on these issues.


  4. I'm excited about this!

    Here's a forum dealing with tDCs that might be a good resource: http://www.reddit.com/r/tDCS

  5. Shinzen,

    For those of us who are a little leery of running an electrical current through their brain in the infancy of a technology, I've been looking at other possible at home devices that could be used for similar purposes.

    There's a company called Emotiv that makes a headset (http://www.emotiv.com/index.php) that can monitor some brain activity. Would it be possible to use a system like that to "alert" you when your mind has wandered and thus provide more focused training?

  6. Thanks, this is great! (Had no idea any of the pieces you list under 'Popular Articles' were even out there.) Beautifully edited too. And for what it's worth, this is the best single-page resource on tDCS I've seen to date.

    Another strong place to start is the video-article put together by perhaps the leading lab for tDCS research in the US, that of the Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, in Boston, MA:


    Video Article -Electrode Positioning and Montage in Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation, DaSilva, A.F., Volz, M.S., Bikson, M., Fregni, F, J. Vis. Exp. (51), e2744, DOI : 10.3791/2744 (2011):


    While the video itself comes across as almost robotic with its constant reference to patients as "subjects" - in order to emphasize the point that it was made in order set forth appropriate and uniform standard practice in RESEARCH where DCS sill does not have FDA clinical approval even though comparatively inexpensive devices ($350) that do the job nicely are readily available by prescription - the written materials that come with it are of invaluable clarity as a "how to do it manual." (And speaking of which, some of the writers/producers whose work is listed under 'You Tube Videos' could have used this information, PARTICULARLY CONCERNING ELECTRODE PLACEMENTS.)

  7. I like the cartoon. Reminds me of an Escher painting.

  8. Shinzen,

    Do you have any opinions on brainwave entrainment technology using binaural and isochronic tones?


    Here you can download software that produces the sounds:

    1. I haven't looked into that technology very deeply. I've tried it a few times but certainly not enough times to give it a fair chance. I get conflicting anecdotal reports; it seems to help some people and not do much for others. In its current form, I would rather doubt that it reliably produces results of the type, depth, and stability required to significantly improve the human condition (as per my "We're not there yet" blogpost: http://shinzenyoung.blogspot.com/2012/07/were-not-there-yet.html).

  9. Shinzen, I'm curious about this, but have a reservation. While it is accepted that co-activation of synapses produces long-term potentiation, and it is perhaps true that this happens no matter how the neurons are activated, I'm curious whether the "passive" approach of TCDS would be equivalent to the effect of deliberate practice. The analogy may fail, but a machine that moves my arm up and down will not produce the muscle growth that deliberately lifting weights does (though I'm aware of studies that electrically stimulating muscle fibers to contract can produce muscle growth, which is why the analogy is not perfect for expressing my reservation). There are other analogies where passive approaches don't seem to produce the same effects as active approaches, such as in education, or where external stimulation produces tolerance and dependence, such as drug use. The proof will be in the data, I suppose.

    1. Interesting ideas and good questions, Greg. Thanks!

    2. You make a lot of sense. I am going to initially try some neurofeedback sessions though (since I don't have access to TCDS at this time). Maybe a somewhat passive support like that will aid me in drilling down through the core of interia to trigger a more active approach to 'stream entry'.

  10. tDCS is fools gold. Those who BELIEVE in "Easy Street" Enlightenment are drawn like moths to the flame of effortless Enlightenment like tDCS. Having grown up in the 60's I witnessed dear friends who thought, "If I just believe (in the Western sense of belief) hard enough that I am Enlightened, I will be Enlightened." It was Renee Decarte's "I think, therefore, I am" all over again. There is no red pill or blue pill. There are just the three jewels and practice, practice, practice. And then there is the multitude of mind control projects the CIA and 144 other national security agencies are involved in like "A Course in Miracles". Even if tDCS could be of some benefit to humankind, because it is a technology 100 ugly applications will be funded and used for each "good" application. Finally, can tDCS teach dharma and morality while it is "conditioning" your mind? Not a chance. . . No thanks. I've been to this movie before and the ending is ugly and evil, not to mention a waste of your life.

    1. tDCS doesn't need to teach dharma or morality, since both of these can spontaneously arise as a result of attainment of enlightened states of being. Once an individual attains to that degree of awareness/consciousness, where is the need for them to be trained in morality?

  11. Whoa buddy, you're trippin' pretty hard there! I have some concern with your exclusionary thinking. You might be imprisoning yourself with those harsh judgements.
    “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

  12. I actually build and use a tDCS device and it is not as easy as is suggested above. It is unwise to use the device without a specific current regulator, fuse and good synthetic sponge electrodes (any other way and you can end up with lesions or dead).

    Once you have the device build correctly (or bought one for $400 or so), the next challenge is wiring it up to the right area of the brain. Which takes quite some time to research (and you better do your research or shit your pants five days in a row like has happened to some other enthusiasts).

    Now if you passed that hurdle, you have to take the last one. How are you going to notice if the device works? How can you measure it and distinguish your progress from placebo?

    If you take all of that into account, you're probably a few months further down the road and still have no guarantee that your little plan to become smarter will actually work for you.

  13. Hello Shenzen,

    Glad to see that you are furthering important discussions about tDCS. And I am just as excited about the spiritual, mental, and societal affects that tDCS can do. But one thing to remember about positive research results is not that everybody has the enlightened experience, just a statistically significant amount had the change that the researchers were looking for.

    I believe the potential for multilevel human change can gradually occur with tDCS but the people that have built their own or purchased tDCS device and expect to have a drastic change in intelligence in a few weeks will be gravely dissapointed. And it has to be done correctly for safety and efficacy. From the research, and my personal experience of testing on myself for about two months, a noticeable difference (say in concentration) would last a day or two after treatment.

    I have created a prototype DC Stim, a safe and easy to use medical device that provides regulated direct current. This medical device can be used for any direct current application but it was designed specifically for the use and safety requirements of tDCS. I am currently designing and building a manufactured prototype to validate the full design. Unfortunately I was denied funding from techmoola for this stage of the project. Check out the website (www.dcstimulator.com).

    TDCS is a complicated issue. On the one side, when used correctly, the potential benefits to a person and to society at large can be drastic; hence it should be deregulated and medical devices should be regulated and certified on safety. But on the other side, the long term effects are not yet known and users are effectively performing longitudinal experiments on themselves. Long live the psychonaut!.

  14. it is relevant and good information.i like your story.I'm always interested in technologies that create patterns of activation and deactivation in the human brain.Thanks for sharing the good information.

  15. Hi Shinzen - I just found this very scientific article on TDCS - hope eveyone finds it "stimulating".


  16. Hi Shinzen - I just came across your blog now for the first time. Been a fan of your audiobooks on meditation for a while now...

    I recently learned about tDCS from a Scientific American article. Mostly interested in how tDCS might enhance cognitive ability and concentration.

    It's interesting to me that the benefits some have observed from experimenting with tDCS "treatments" bear some similarity to the benefits I get from meditation.

    I look forward to getting my own kit as soon as the group at flowstateengaged.com has their proposed kit available!

    Great stuff! Thank you.

  17. Have any of you actually used tDCS? If so, what are your experiences? I think what is missing is for people to describe their own daily personal experiences. I would be curious to hear from people with respect to your personal experiences with tDCS. I think it is an interesting technology that has potential to help enhance a variety of things our minds do for us. It could just be a very personalized type of thing. Surely my meditations are not the same as yours. Why would my experience with tDCS be any different? It would be nice to share more specific experiences with others though. This way we could coletcively determine if there is something common amongst us with respect to the best practices for applying noninvasive neuromodulation like tDCS.

  18. I have a background in both electrical engineering and meditation, and about a month ago--not long after first hearing about the technology--built a tDCS machine from scratch. I've been using it semi-regularly, and so far have been impressed. I use it mostly when working, as it delivers a near-instant "flow" state, or if I've been stuck on a difficult problem (an anterio-temporal lobe montage will generally lead to a flash of insight within minutes). And placing the electrodes on two specific spots on my forehead helps with anxiety and mood. (I don't use it for meditation, as I consider my practice a "practice" and prefer the exercise to the experience, if that makes sense!)

    I will say that although building the machine was simple, finding the right placement for both electrodes took no small amount of trial-and-error: the publicized montages didn't always work for me and sometimes moving the cathode or anode a few centimeters in one direction or another made a marked difference.

    I don't claim to be an expert in the field and concur that my experiences might be placebo (I have no way to do a double-blind test on myself, and beyond this am more concerned with the results than the mechanism of the results). Still, I'm hoping more people will start experimenting. If nothing else the technology seems to have fewer side effects than psychopharmaceuticals, and after my initial experience I'd be interested to hear what those struggling with more serious anxiety or depression might find.

  19. Hey folks,
    I'll comment more on this wonderful thread in the future. In the meantime, wanted to share this article Jeff Warren just sent me: http://theweek.com/article/index/226196/how-electrical-brain-stimulation-can-change-the-way-we-think
    All the best,

  20. Hello,
    I found your article whilst doing searches on tDCS. Currently I have built my own tDCS device using a 12V battery. A very simple design and quite effective. I have only tried it once now, and I can report the effects I get are more than appreciable. I am researching the possible implementation of tDCS in a rare disorder called HPPD, which I suffer from. I found that albeit not mitigating any of the visual symptoms that characterizes HPPD, it has a good potential for alleviating the accomponied derealization, cognitive deficits, anxiety and depression. There was a distinct silence I can only compare to the meditative states I was able to experience before having this disorder, which I found very liberating. Furthermore I experienced a transient, but vivid, "jump" back into reality. I felt alive for the very first time in a year! My mind was significantly clearer.

    Seeing the lack of sufficient anecdotal evidence, I thought you might appreciate some feedback on the effects of tDCS. I have yet to experiment further with different setting and Amperage, however my initial results seem very promising.

    Lastly, I wanted to point you to the rising of different commercial tDCS devices. There's the GoFlow being developed. The Foc.Us seems to hold more marketing potential, and it's electrode placement is more logical. Perhaps it would be a good place to start, should you decide to explore tDCS.

    Be well.

    1. Thanks. Have you considered using the See Flow technique to work with the visuals of the HPPD? Perhaps along with the Focus In technique to work with the anxiety.

      Basic Mindfulness practice manual http://www.shinzen.org/Retreat%20Reading/FiveWays.pdf
      --Focus In - Chapter 1 pp. 21-28
      --See Flow - p. 53

      FYI, one of the top guys in the tDCS field (http://www.neuromodulationlab.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=55&Itemid=137) is now interested in mindfulness. Why does this not surprise me?

      All the best,

  21. Found an interesting video on youtube (youtube.com/watch?v=-hWy2GTfFiA) with Professor Colleen Loo talking about her research into tdcs, tms, and ketamine. They appear to be getting some very interesting results with the technology. Worth further investigation for sure.

  22. Well, the first (?) mass-produced device is out now: http://www.foc.us.

    Personally, I'm interested in this thing for language learning (Japanese is tough!).

    Although many official studies seem positive, I have been very satisfied with my brain/intelligence so far, so I will wait and see if the mainstream has any practical results and/or mental collapses.

    1. No need to wait for the results of people who bought the foc.us (tDCS) device in order to see if tDCS works or not. There are already over a thousand scientific studies on tDCS that validate both its safety and efficacy to produce positive results for both medical and non-medical (cogntiive enhancement) purposes. Ask google.

    2. Well Anonymous, I just had my first session with the foc.us tdcs.

      I was a bit apprehensive before testing, and even more so when I felt the initial tingling as I turned it on.

      But I did some sitting practice, and after a few minutes I could tell that it unquestionably leant an ecstatic & effortless quality to my concentration power. Slid into a deep groove of breath-focus far more swiftly and easily than normal.

      Obviously a first experiment is far to early to draw conclusions, but I'm pretty excited about my strange new friend.

  23. UPDATE - 7/12/13 -
    Hi folks, I wanted to update this blog post: Recently there’s been some concern about the safety issues because so many people have been experimenting on their own. Check it out:

    DIY Brain Stimulation Raises Concerns

  24. An advanced biofeedback technology called Ondamed is available for treatment of a vast array of both physical and psychological disorders. Ondamed machines are very expensive (upwards of $20,000) but I have used one during many sessions at a trained practitioner's office and found it very powerful and very helpful. Btw, the website is hilariously bad but dig beneath the surface and you can find a lot of information.

  25. Shinzen,

    I feel that the use of devices such as the tDCS open a very large can of worms. You need look no further than the article that was posted somewhere in this thread, describing someone's first-hand account of using a tDCS device in order to make themselves more adept at destroy targets with an M-14, to realise that this approach to 'boosting' definitely raises certain ethical questions.

    Rather than using technology to directly manipulate the material component of ourselves in order to change our minds why don't we continue along the Buddhist notion that changes in the mind lead to changes in the brain.

    I think more focus needs to be applied to the researching and fine-tuning of Neurofeedback (NFB) as a means to boost people's meditation progress rather than directly stimulating the brain. NFB is by no means a new technology and I do not need to explain to someone of your experience that a person who observes with equanimity, the sensations and thoughts arising in their mind/body are actually performing a form of NFB with no hardware required. You could even go as far as saying that meditation and NFB could be interchangeable as definitions in some respects.

    Thanks to a YouTube Video of yours that explained to me the kind of radical boost that sittings of strong determination can give a person's meditation practice, I have experienced first-hand the incredible potency that lies within NFB. Although pain as a feedback device is not going to appeal to most people, there are technological possibilities that will appeal.

    I totally respect and agree with your convictions that technology can be used to help produce more enlightened individuals who in turn will help to steer the world in a better direction. There is definitely a need to make 'industrial strength' meditation more accessible to the world at large and to develop a technology which can indeed help to boost people's progress.

    There are already some great NFB devices out on the market and I feel that if someone with the right expertise could invent a device which is particularly intuitive and seductive in its design as well as being highly accurate in its EEG readings, then NFB could be used as a 'gateway' into meditation. Once such devices become affordable and portable, they could be introduced to children and teachers in primary schools and eventually integrated into the curriculum so that in the lower years, children could learn to put themselves into highly focused states with the help of interesting and age appropriate interfaces. As children get older and pass through the various grades of school, they could be then weaned onto less hardware dependent forms of NFS and then eventually onto NFS in its most essential form which is meditation in the traditional sense.

    With such a framework in mind, it seems to me that technology should be used as an interface between western thought and eastern practice; a means of grabbing people's interest and showing them that meditation is not this far-out thing that needs to be done on top of a mountain somewhere by someone with a long beard who sleeps on a bed of nails. If a child is sick and needs to take some medicine but hates the taste what do you do? You disguise the medicine with something the child likes such as strawberry flavour and you put it in a nice colourful box with pretty pictures on it and only then, once you have the child's attention, you administer the medicine.

    The same can be said for meditation. If meditation needs to be disguised as a tantalising immersion into a virtual reality world for people to start noticing how mindfulness effects their state of being then so be it. The skills that they learn from such technologically aided explorations into consciousness will give them a taste of silence and in a lot of cases, that's all people need to set the wheels in motion and continue along the path towards ever more profound levels of peace and purity.

    Kind Regards,


    1. I forward here a posting I made on an ADHD forum re the probable mechanism of Cranial Electrical Stimulation using the proprietary device AlphaStim.
      This is a different model from tDCS, but is clinically highly effective, and has good research behind it.

      Waveforms used for CES are square waves- which, on penetrating the skin produce a wide scatter of harmonics. This is important as it seems that different tissues respond better to different harmonics- but we are not clear which matches ideally to which tissue, and often want to treat multiple tissues. Sine waves do not produce this scatter of harmonics.

      Proprietary versions of CES have had considerable research behind them to identify waveform algorithms that have maximum skin penetration, and produce a range of harmonics.
      Many of these algorithms involve square waves that start with a sharp spike to improve skin penetration.
      Frequency is important-- low frequency (0.5 Hz) achieves deeper tissue penetration.

      Currents in the Microampere (CES/tDCS) range are more effective than currents in the Milliampere range (TENS).

      These microcurrent electrotherapies can also be applied via probes or adhesive pad electrodes to treat painful or inflamed muscles. There is also evidence to support accelerated wound healing when they are used.
      This application is called Microcurrent Electrotherapy (MET). I will cover MET in some detail below as it illustrates the mechanism of action of these therapies at a cellular level in a way that is obvious and can be confirmed in 2 minutes or less by anyone who has access to a machine and has a painful muscle they want to treat.

      I use Alpha-Stim myself both via ear clips- and by direct application of probes across painful muscles that are in spasm. As expected- I have lower levels of anxiety, better sleep, clearer focus, and am rapidly mastering a very nasty long term chronic pain condition involving my lower neck and thoracic spine. Meditation quality is improved as well.

      I have spent time reviewing the available research and can come up with a number of key points on the mechanisms- but for clarity I will initially keep references to a minimum See next post as there are post length limits here:

    2. In the normal course of events glucose is oxidised within the mitochondria (small organelles within the cells) to convert a molecule called cyclic AMP (cAMP) to an energy charged form called ATP.
      ATP is the useable form of energy that drives all internal cellular organelles and regulates the ion pumps in the cell membrane that allow neurones to conduct information by electrical discharge.

      Current diets rich in trans fats are harmful to mitochondria as the trans fat is proven to accumulate within the mitochondria and impair their function.
      It appears that other elements of Western lifestyle and diet may also be significant here as well - but degradation of mitochondrial numbers and functionality is one of the major correlates of ageing.

      Mitochondrial function may also be impaired by poor oxygen supply.
      An example of this that we all know is when we overwork a muscle and it starts to hurt due to lactic acid accumulation as the cells resort to anaerobic metabolism once their available energy is consumed.

      Similarly- in the case of chronic muscle strain- the muscle will develop very tender nodules called trigger points.
      At these points the muscle spasm is so intense that the muscle has cut off its own blood supply. As the cells continue to operate with insufficient oxygen, their functions become degraded and normal ion transfer across cell membranes does not occur. Lactic acid and free radicals accumulate - causing pain- and more spasm.

      Equally- when we get a bruise or an infected cut and it swells, the accumulation of fluid between cells (interstitial oedema) increases the distance between the cell and the nearest capillary, and the efficiency of oxygen transfer is impaired.

      So it is obvious that impaired oxygen supply or transfer or mitochondrial dysfunction will limit the functionality of the affected cells.

      Equally, if this situation is chronic, the issue of long term damage to the cells and even cell death (apoptosis), is a real concern. In the case of brain cells- these are largely not replaceable-- so we need to pay some attention here.

      As an aside:
      I would argue that neuronal dysfunction (manifesting as mental fog, or emotional dysregulation) may well be a warning of impaired energy metabolism in the relevant cells. As there is research showing a statistical association between Alzheimers and various DSM disorders including ADHD, bipolar and depression-- this possibility certainly has got my attention.
      I have no evidence to support the idea that CES may be neuroprotective- but do think it is a worthwhile question to ask.

      Now- as to reasons for impaired energy metabolism-- we come here to the recommended 7 point meditation posture:

      In short the slouched- upper crossed posture associated with prolonged desk work impairs both vertebral artery and vein function resulting in impaired blood flow to and venous drainage from the brain stem (including he reticular activating system/locus coeruleus) and the limbic system. This is made much worse if there is an underlying upper cervical injury/arthritis (both of which are common).
      I hope this does not repeat last night's post.

  26. tDCS is great. I feel like it was shining light in my head while using it and gives me entirely new perspective to everything, self-less, softer and at the same time I feel much stronger. Definitely less depressed.

    But the best part about it is that it can be so extremely easily made and for such little overall cost.

    had you used it yet?
    if yes what is your first hand opinion?

  27. Undoubtedly some people who've read this/are reading this/will read this, may end up experimenting with this kind of technology. As with any kind of direct neuro-modulation (whether it be drugs of any kind, or stimulation devices like tDCS and others) knowledge is power - and safety!

    I just came across this collection of manuals:
    alot of the stuff there is relating to the device that they sell, but there's some useful information (about brodmann areas etc) there for anyone with any kind of tDCS device.

  28. Another educational and useful link for you all, a recent UC-Davis summit on Brain Stimulation through tDCS:

  29. HI Shinzen,
    and thankyou for your useful resource.

    I have recently acquired the Alpha-Stim tDCS device - which was done primarily to treat insomnia and muscular neck pain from an old birth injury (a rotatory subluxation of the atlas on the skull- - of over 20 degrees).

    I chose Alpha Stim because of the high quality research available on its website for its particular method using the algorithm thy have developed.

    From what I can see so far they have good evidence as to the usefulness of the device in
    1) Electrically converting cyclic AMP to ATP in the treated tissues-- thus mimicking the effect of oxygen in deoxygenated tissues.
    2) AlphaStim has been shown to entrain a theta or delta brainwave state while being used, but this state rebounds to a low alpha state after the stimulation ceases.
    Most effective meditaters gravitate to a low alpha state as the predominant brainwave state.

    Meditation practitioners stress upright posture- with the ear canals vertically in line with the centre of the shoulder and hip joints, with the body drawn up to maximum height.

    Check these 2 pages:

    The punchline-- a slouched head forwards posture (especially in the presence of common upper cervical injuries)compromises vertebral vein and vertebral artery function- impairing oxygenation of the limbic system and the brainstem, and also disrupts cerebrospinal fluid flow around the brain. The same posture also swings autonomic activity towards sympathetic dominance

    So- these poor postures significantly increase "bottom up" stress drives from the reptilian brain and impair the ability of the limbic system to discriminate as to the relevance of these bottom up signals (do they represent life threat or do they not?).

    The end result-- mental dullness and the reticular activating system in the brainstem is de-oxygenated, AND a mental state which is dominated by "environment scanning" to look for the threat which the body is feeling-- Ie "Monkey Mind" PLUS mental dullness all at once.

    I don't want to be seen as advocating for one brand or device- but honestly have not had the time to investigate the research behind the Fischer Wallace device (the other commercially significant competitor).

    However- my experience is that the device I use significantly enhances the quality of meditation.

    I work as a medical practitioner primarily applying mindfulness therapies to the management of ADHD.

  30. For those that have tried both CES (alternating current) and tDCS, has anyone found either to be superior for depression/learning/anxiety.

  31. Recently, a more advanced form of this tech has become available: HD-tDCS, which utilizes montages of several smaller electrodes over the area being targeted to produce significantly more powerful and specific stimulation. A number of companies have developed wearable caps with electrodes already in place for easier set-up. At least one has software linking the tDCS to EEG activity in order to monitor the effectiveness of different programs for depression, pain, enhanced focus, etc. These devices are pricey and at present only sold in North America for research purposes, although all four that I am aware of (StarStim, MagStim, Neuroconn and Soterix) have been approved for clinical and private use in Europe.

    1. Hi Kaiser,
      Thanks, that's useful info. I'm going to pass it on to some of my friends working in this field.
      All the best,

  32. Hi,

    Greetings from Finland!

    The science is coming out and at a first glance, doesn't look too good:




    1. This from The Economist, regarding Prof. Horvath's study, which has been criticized for numerous methodological flaws: "Marom Bikson, a professor of biomedical engineering at City University of New York, disagrees. “I can literally make you fall on your butt using the ‘wrong’ type of tDCS,” he says. Dr Bikson thinks the biggest challenge for tDCS is optimising techniques, such as the dose."


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