ELEC­TRI­CAL STIM­U­LA­TION

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Science -

De­vices that send a weak elec­tri­cal cur­rent through your brain via head-mounted elec­trodes are mar­keted on­line as cog­ni­tive en­hancers. Tran­scra­nial Di­rect Cur­rent Stim­u­la­tion (tDCS) – not to be con­fused with Tran­scra­nial Mag­netic Stim­u­la­tion (TMS) – is claimed by those who sell it to speed up re­ac­tions, calm you down, help you fo­cus, in­crease phys­i­cal en­durance and im­prove more or less any men­tal skill you want.

Although it sounds gim­micky, there is ac­tu­ally a vast amount of solid ev­i­den­tial sup­port for tDCS both as a treat­ment (for pain, de­pres­sion, tin­ni­tus, de­men­tia and much else) and for en­hance­ment. When it’s used cor­rectly it is ex­traor­di­nar­ily safe, and com­par­a­tively cheap – you can get a tDCS kit for about $127.

How­ever, like brain train­ing, tDCS has not yet shown it­self ca­pa­ble of im­prov­ing over­all cog­ni­tion (rather than in­di­vid­ual func­tions), and much of what’s known about it has come from a large, ded­i­cated band of DIY re­searchers, and as a re­sult is anec­do­tal and/or dif­fi­cult to as­sess. Judge the ev­i­dence for your­self at red­dit.com/r/tDCS/.ß

Rita Carter is a sci­ence writer, lec­turer and broad­caster, spe­cial­is­ing in the brain

De­vices that use tDCS (tran­scra­nial Di­rect Cur­rent Stim­u­la­tion) to ‘boost your brain’ are widely avail­able, though sci­en­tific ev­i­dence that they do so is hard to find

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