Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)

Smiling doctor and patient

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is a “cutting-edge” brain-based therapy that is proven to be an effective treatment for a number of many treatment-resistant conditions.

tDCS is a very safe, non-invasive, treatment that uses a weak direct electric current to enhance neuroplasticity in the brain by modulating (changing) the activity of neurones.

tDCS is an effective treatment

Research shows that tDCS is particularly effective for treating conditions including:

  • Chronic Pain
  • Depression
  • Recovering speech and movement after stroke or traumatic brain injury

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 U.S. Department of Defense that is responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military, is using tDCS to accelerate and enhance the training of their special forces.

During treatment patients sit comfortably whilst small sponge electrodes (moistened with saline solution) 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 scalp and underlying brain. Patients often, but not always, perform specific activities or exercises during and after each session, which typically lasts about 20 minutes.

How does tDCS work ?

tDCS uses a weak direct electric current to change the “resting membrane potential” or “excitability” of neurones in the brain.

Research shows that the application of the positive electrode (known as the anode) increases the excitability of neurones in the brain by up to 40%, whilst the application of the negative electrode (known as the cathode) reduces neuronal excitability.

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 patient’s brain is more “plastic” and more likely to change.

Lady winning a race

Research shows that tDCS promotes neuroplasticity in the brain and, as a result, other therapies (such as targeted cognitive training, specific physical exercises or speech therapy etc.) administered during this “window of opportunity” become more effective. It is a little like “warming up” properly before a race – You are more likely to win and get the results you are looking for.

tDCS is safe

During tDCS treatment most patients will feel mild “pins and needles” under the electrodes. Side effects from tDCS are rare and may include some reddening of the skin under the electrode that quickly disappears. Sometimes patients may experience a mild headache 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.