What is tDCS?
Trans-Cranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is a very safe therapy that works by using a weak electric current to gently stimulate the brain. During treatment, people sit comfortably whilst small sponge electrodes are positioned over targeted areas of the brain. The electrodes are held in place using soft velcro straps and deliver a low-intensity direct electric current to the underlying brain. Treatment is safe and does not hurt at all, with most people simply feeling a mild “tingling” sensation. People usually perform specific activities or exercises during and after each treatment session.
Who can benefit from tDCS?
At The Perth Brain Centre we often use tDCS to help people with:
Research also shows that tDCS can improve attention, concentration, learning and memory for both healthy individuals and those with disabilities. DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the agency of The USA Department of Defence that is responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the U.S. military, uses tDCS to accelerate and enhance the training of their special forces.
How Does tDCS Work?
tDCS uses a weak direct electric current to activate neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change) by altering the “resting membrane potential” or “excitability” of braincells.
Research shows that the application of the positive electrode (known as the anode) increases the excitability of braincells by up to 40%, whilst the application of the negative electrode (known as the cathode) reduces brain excitability. Studies also show that the effects of tDCS are not limited to the area of the brain directly under the electrodes, but that it also changes the activity of large brain networks and the levels of neurotransmitters required for normal brain function.
One of the most important aspects of tDCS is that the changes in brain activity persist for some time after the end of the treatment session. This creates an important “window of opportunity” after treatment during which the brain is more “plastic” and more likely to change. At The Perth Brain Centre we provide very specific targeted exercises to help maximise the benefits of therapy.
Is tDCS Safe?
tDCS is very safe. During tDCS treatment most people will feel gentle tingling or a “pins and needles” feeling under the electrodes. Side effects from tDCS are rare but may include some reddening of the skin under the electrode that quickly disappears after treatment. Occasionally some people may experience a mild headache or fatigue during or after treatment, although again this is usually short-lived.
tDCS should not be confused with ECT or “shock therapy” which uses a much larger electric current applied to the whole brain. Over 20 years of research, and over 1000 peer-reviewed studies, has shown that tDCS is a very safe treatment, suitable for both children and adults.