tDCS devices: Everything about electrode brain zapping

You’ve probably heard of the Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) used in mental institutions a few decades ago. While ECT has been there for more than 50 years now and has worked fairly well for brain stimulation purposes, the process sure looks harsh, to say the least.


tDCS or Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation is a safer as well as noninvasive form of the same where small portable instruments provide current stimulation (around 1-2 milliamp) that enters your brain at the right places through the attached electrodes.

Doctors and researchers have conducted various studies in the last decade to prove its effectiveness in treating various minor mental health conditions like depression, poor memory, etc.

How tDCS works at chemical levels?

The human brain is a complex organ with its functionality dependent on the excitability and firing of neurons as well as the transfer of messages between the nerve cells. tDCS devices work by passing a small fraction of current, not more than 2 milliamps, through the brain tissue. While the current is considered insufficient to cause nerve cell firing, it works by interacting with background neural activity or creating small neuron polarization causing long-lasting neuronal excitability conditions.

Attaching the electrodes to different parts of the brain is known to positively affect various mental processes like cognitive abilities, learning as well as mood and behavior.

So how do tDCS devices work at a chemical level when it comes to the human brain? tDCS stimulations are known to impact the levels of various neurotransmitters like glutamate and glutamine which work as the chemical messengers helping the brain to process information at super high speeds. Increased glutamate levels have a direct relation to increased cognitive, memory and learning abilities.

Further, research studies also indicate an increase in hormones like dopamine and serotonin post tDCS stimulation therapies. Increased levels of these happy hormones help in mood enhancement which is invaluable when treating mental disorders like depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, etc.

The perceived uses in the medical world

With various successful studies and demonstrations on the benefits of tDCS devices on treating various mental health conditions, the medical community has widely accepted their usage to give symptomatic relief for the following:

  • tDCS devices used in a planned therapy format have been known to provide symptomatic as well as long-lasting relief in conditions like depression and anxiety.
  • tDCS has been increasingly used to enhance cognitive powers like memory, retention, learning abilities, language-related skills, etc.
  • Research has also provided some evidence to demonstrate improvement in motor functions as a result of tDCS stimulation which brings forth interesting possibilities of treating patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Being a smart user

While the benefits of tDCS seem good enough for an instant grab, it does pay to be smart when considering and using technology for health. Although their usage has been proven to be safe, both by doctors and at home, one should always research the risks (as small as they sound) of anything that affects the brain.

Working out a plan with your healthcare provider, understanding the implications, following the safety manual for every single instruction is recommended before jumping into the process.

While everyone wants a top-notch memory box fitted over their shoulders, being a mindful user is the way to go!