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TRANSCRANIAL DIRECT CURRENT STIMULATION

These headsets pass a weak electrical current through the frontal lobe of the brain. Emerging evidence suggests that it might be "modestly effective" as a treatment for depression. Using the headset is low risk. You may want to rent one alongside a talking therapy with me.

WHAT IS THE HEADSET DOING?

Near the front of your brain is an area called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (image below). It's involved in complex thinking processes like planning ahead and making decisions.

 

Research suggests that this part of the cortex is underactive in people who are depressed. This may contribute to difficulties with inhibiting or reappraising negative emotions (research link).

 

People have been experimenting with magnetic and electrical stimulation for some time now. The technologies are referred to as “neurostimulation”.

 

The current from this headset seems to temporarily increase the likelihood that the neurons in that area will fire, so it becomes more active.

dlpfc_left.jpg

Location of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex

HOW AND WHEN DO YOU USE IT?
  • First three weeks: 30 minutes a day, 5 days per week

  • Next seven weeks: 30 minutes a day, 2 days per week

 

You can carry on for as long as you like if you're finding it useful.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

Some people experience no sensations from the headset. Others feel an itchy, tingly or mild burning that dissipates soon after the session is over. No serious side effects have been reported. You should seek a medical opinion if:

  • you are pregnant or think you might be

  • you have epilepsy or have had seizures

  • you have a skull problem or metal parts around the brain

  • you have a device implanted in your body like a heart pacemaker, cochlear implant, or other stimulator

  • you have a skin condition or damaged skin on your forehead

 

The headset is safe to use while taking medications like antidepressants.

DOES IT WORK?

Most research to-date indicates that tDCS could be considered "modestly effective": people who use an active headset for the recommend treatment period tend to see improvements in their depression that are better than people who are given a placebo headset. The research is limited and we're waiting on some larger studies. We don't know yet whether or not it has an effect on anxiety. NICE, which oversees healthcare in the UK, has approved the headset for use in the NHS.

Here are some research trials and meta-analyses, if you want to read more:

 

WHY I'M OFFERING THIS

What we call "depression" can be a very different experience for different people. And depression is usually caused by several interacting factors, e.g., whether or not relationships are fulfilling, whether work is meaningful, the patterns of thinking and feeling that we learned in earlier life…

 

In short, depression is not a purely physical problem, nor does it have a singular cause. So, it's rare that a single physical treatment will resolve it.

 

That said, the evidence indicates that these headsets work for some people. There is a plausible enough explanation for why that might be, as explained above (the effect on the cortex). And the risks of it not working are low. So, it seems worth trying.

WHAT ARE THE PRACTICAILITIES?

You can rent a headset to take home for £10 per week. There's an extra charge of £15-30 for the first week to cover the cost of the pads.

You download the Flow app to your phone and I create a free account for you, which will guide you through each stimulation session.

 

If you need new pads, you can order them here: https://www.flowneuroscience.com/shop/tdcs-pads/

The manufacturer's website is https://www.flowneuroscience.com/

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