By: Girish Radhakrishnan
This may sound like science fiction, where an evil scientist connects his head to some complex machine and gaining super human capabilities.
This may somewhat be true, but not as sensational as in sci-fi.
Here we are going to understand what TDCS is, how it improves brain activity and how to make one.
WARNING: Proceed this project at your own risk. We are not responsible for any damage or loss caused by this project.
Brain is one of the complex organs in our body without which it’s impossible to stay alive. A supercomputer takes millions of joules of energy and thousands of CPU cores and takes several minutes to simulate equivalent to one second of brain activity, whereas our brain might just need a burger for powering itself for few hours, it is estimated that brain consumes equivalent to power of a 20 watthour light bulb.
Our brain is a pool of electrical activity; we can measure brain’s electrical activity by means of bio-medical instruments such as EEG. Any abnormality in brain leads to change in electrical activity of brain.
We can fix quite a few diseases such as depression, chronic pain etc by applying small current at specific point of our head, which can potentially cure or suppress the disease significantly.
This method is used where drugs don’t respond to treatments or drugs are too expensive.
NOTE: Never confuse TDCS with “Electroconvulsive therapy” which is popularly known “shock treatment”.
What is TDCS?
TDCS is a medical tool. TDCS stands for “Transcranial direct current stimulation” which means passing direct current (DC) through skull for stimulating the brain.
This is a non-invasive method and this technique is practiced by many doctors across the globe and has been recommended safe.
This method gained more attention of many researchers in recent years and they found encouraging results from their experiments.
Researchers found improvements in math ability after passing small current for few minutes through the brain of the participants; this is one of many positive results.
This method is used by US air force and army for improving their skill and speed up decision making reflexes.
Basically, the TDCS device is powered by only batteries and consists of current controlling mechanism which control current through the brain.
TDCS many have two or more electrodes, but basic one consist of at least two electrodes, one is positive and another negative.
The electrode is made of soft material and soaked with electrically conductive solution such as sodium solution, for homemade projects we can use table salt mixed in water.
The soft material prevents skin irrigation and provides good conduction between the electrode and skin.
The electrode placement around the head and size of electrode plays an important role in controlling neural activity.
Improper placement of electrodes may not give optimum results and also may leads to negative impact on our brain.
Here is an image illustrates sample electrode placement:
Image credit: To original creator
Warning: You are advised to do extensive research on internet regarding the placement of electrode and the size of electrode.
Any side effects?
TDCS method is not new in medical field, but relatively less study has been conducted till date. But most of the study have revealed positive results. Here are a few side effects:
• Skin itching around the electrode placement.
• Head ache for few participants has been observed.
• Hallucination for few minutes observed in few participants.
The long term affects are yet to known.
• Improved math skills.
• Improved decision making skills
• Improved gaming skills
• Potential tool for curing many diseases such as depression, Parkinson, stroke, chronic pain etc.
• Improved sleep quality.
NOTE: The above skills could be enhanced by placing the electrode at different position on head. Improper placement of electrode leads to negative impact on our brain. So, do research on internet about placement of electrode on head.
So, now you know quite a bit about TDCS. Now let’s construct the TDCS device.
The TDCS consist of constant current source for proper current regulation, it must be operated only on batteries, please forget about AC mains here.
There are three current switches for regulating output current. Different treatment needs different current flow through head.
All OFF - output 1mA.
S1 ON - output 2mA.
S1 and S2 ON - output 3mA.
S1, S2 and S3 ON – 4mA.
Here’s how to make an electrode:
The sponge must place on the skin not the metal part. Please don’t use any kind of metal electrode to contact with skin; it will cause small skin burn even at 1mA. Do not use AC mains for power supply, small surge is enough to flow huge current on your head.
TDCS is a medical tool has potential capability to cure many diseases, if you have proper knowledge about it you can use without consulting a doctor but, be always cautioned, don’t take our word for that. Do research about it before getting into use.