Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Cautious Opinion on TDCs

I do not wish to be seen to be encouraging people with no scientific background to perform unsafe experimentation so I am including a link to a cautious blog post below. Despite this many FDA approved CES devices are available to the general public. 


So while this post is clearly discouraging I am including it as a matter of caution rather than vitriol. Personally I think TDCs is safe enough to do at home. But you must have some back ground knowledge.


http://blog.zocdoc.com/can-electrical-stimulation-tdcs-enhance-your-brain-performance-fact-vs-myth/


 While the acute effects of tDCS only last about 75 percent of the time of application (e.g. If you stimulate for 20 minutes, the effects will last only about 15 minutes after the current is removed), any enhanced learning that is achieved during the session could potentially last months, just as learning a task without stimulation would. The difference is that you can potentially acquire that new task (i.e. learn) faster, and better.
For this reason, the task you choose is just as important as the tDCS current. Without a learning task, little is likely to be achieved with electrical stimulation. Similarly, the stimulation has to be in the area of the brain that is performing the task. Stimulation in the wrong part of the brain would have no effect or could potentially impair the task, if you happen to stimulate in an area that negatively regulates the area being used.
Safety is another concern. Most of the studies to date have suggested that tDCS is safe at least in a laboratory setting and for short-term use. The few reported side effects such as itching and headache appear to be mild. However, the safety has not been assessed very rigorously, and the results of long-term and repeated use are unknown. Though the effective voltage used in most of the studies is only around two milliamps, caution must be used to ensure that higher voltages are not accidentally applied.
Needless to say, tDCS should never be tried at home because of these potential risks. Scientists using tDCS in a laboratory setting have the expertise and high-quality equipment to assure the safety of their participants. They also have equipment like EEG and MRI that can help them localize the appropriate brain region for stimulation, as well as the training to understand how and when tDCS could be safe and effective. If you’re curious about tDCS your best bet is to find a local university that studies tDCS and volunteer for an experiment.
I don't encourage Joe Blogg's to read my blog and stick a battery onto his drunk mates head. 

I know enough about Electronics & Neuroscience to do this experiment. I would not ever experiment with neuro magnetics. At 1-2mA I feel its reasonably safe taking the large amount of research data into account. I am also limiting my exposure to the procedure to only four initial sessions per protocol. If I feel its worth it at the end of my foray I may do more sessions.

The good news is this - You are regulating an electrical parameter of your nervous system, the current between certain parts of the brain. So the same protocols can be used for BIOFEEDBACK.

Biofeedback eliminates any risk from the application of electricity. By studying and experimenting with TDCs for some time I hope to progress to using a suitably amplified & isolated Ammeter to regulate the protocols by a more natural & safe means. I certainly do not intend to do TDCs for an extended period of time.


So let me spell it out : I have studied Electronics & Neuroscience for many years - that is why I feel comfortable performing these experiments at home. Also my ultimate objective is to develop biofeedback protocols that are more effective & less invasive than TDCs.


I do not intend to use TDCs for an extended period of time. Maybe for a few months at the most.


Also clearly there are various cognitive trainings that can be taken advantage of while applying TDCs, such as speed reading & photo reading, eidetic training, mental calculation, artistic visualisation and so on. I am interested to see the improvement that TDCs offers in these area's.


I also want to add with respect to the post excerpt above from the other persons blog. 


The objective with TDCs - as with working memory training is "Cognitive Enhancement". 
This does not refer to the short term affect during or immediately after the training. It refers to the training of actual cognitive neurological patterns. 


These patterns are reinforced during TDCs and are long term or permanent. The learning of these patterns does not wear off in 20 minutes. This is why I am using the "curve of forgetting". Neurological patterns can be reinforced permanently or with infrequent retraining if it is done correctly. This is also why Biofeedback is probably a superior approach once an intitial familarization has been established with TDCs.

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