I wanted to take a moment to address the most common question I receive from research subjects. As the Research Coordinator here at the Lab, I receive many phone calls and speak with many subjects. However, most questions remain the same. Most people want to know:
What is tDCS, or what is TMS?
tDCS -- In short, tDCS is transcranial direct current stimulation. In our lab, we use this technique to try to change the way your brain makes connections. We study many different types of disorders, including Chronic Pain, Parkinson's disease, and Stroke. In each study we have, our tDCS setup is slightly different. However, we have one main goal : to try to investigate tDCS and its effects on the brain. For people with neurological or psychological disorders, we would like to see if using tDCS could possibly change the quality of life and improve symptoms.
tDCS is a small device that's powered by a 9v battery. As you can see in this photo (to the right), these are the supplies that we use for tDCS. From Left to right, we have (1) Saline Solution (salt-water), (2) the tDCS device, (3) two small sponges, (4) cables that connect to the device, and the batteries (9-volt) that power the device, (5) measuring tape (to position electrodes) and (6) two small rubber bands to secure the electrodes.
During tDCS, we connect the two small cables to salt water soaked sponges. These sponges are "electrodes." Then, we connect the tDCS device to the cables. Using the grey rubber bands depicted above, we then secure the sponges to the scalp. To the right, you can see a researcher and a subject. The researcher is attaching the rubber bands, and securing the electrodes.
The current from the device travels through the electrodes and through the scalp. The amount of current is very small. Most commonly, people feel a slight itching or tingling sensation under the electrodes. This is normal, and is caused by the current flowing from the device. For most, the sensation fades a short time later. Sometimes, the rubber bands can feel tight and cause a small headache. This can be treated with acetaminophen or aspirin, and will fade. For most of our studies, tDCS stimulation lasts 20 minutes.