TDCS and Neuropriming
The brain is the control center for everything that goes on in your body. The frontal lobes send signals to your deep emotional neural networks to help control your emotions and higher-level thinking. The primary motor cortex sends signals to move specific muscles in your body. The frontal and temporal lobes send signals to your mouth to create speech. Your brain influences your emotions, directs your movement, and perceives the reality in which you live.
There are billions of neurons in the brain. There are billions of connections between those neurons. The connections and communication between neurons result in emotions, experiences, personality, and muscle movement. Specialized connections between neurons create special networks dedicated for specific purposes. Some networks are specialized for creating physical movement. Others are specialized for emotional processing. Others are specialized for language.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT…PRACTICE BUILDS NEURAL CONNECTIONS
When we perform an action using a neural network, the action we make sends feedback to those networks to help refine them. This way, we become better at whatever action we are performing. This is how practice or repetition improves a skill. For instance, when we learn how to play a piano, we refine our skill by practicing repetitively. Your index finger might tend to slip on a certain key in a piano chord because it feels awkward. With practice your finger becomes very familiar with the key and you suddenly find yourself having conquered that chord you have been struggling with. This is because the action of practicing the piano sends feedback to the neural networks involved in learning the new instrument. Over time, the networks become crisper, more defined, and we become more skilled at the task at hand.
A neural network’s ability to refine and reshape itself based on feedback is called ‘plasticity.’
Neuropriming: Transcranial direct current stimulation enhances plasticity
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a form of noninvasive brain stimulation, and involves applying a low level electrical current to specified brain regions to enhance plasticity (What is tDCS?). The electrical current from tDCS decreases a neuron’s threshold for firing. In other words, tDCS makes it easier for neurons to fire. It takes less input for a neuron to fire an electrical signal. tDCS affects multiple neurons in the same region/network. When multiple neurons fire together, it strengthens their connection to each other, thus enhancing their plasticity.
tDCS can enhance neuroplasticity. This is called ‘neuropriming.’
It is important to note that in order to achieve the desired effect, the tDCS session needs to be paired with quality training of the targeted neural network. Examples of quality training include the following:
· For someone looking to learn to practice a new skill, or play a new instrument or language: Practicing the skill for an hour after a tDCS session
· For someone looking to enhance creativity: Learning a new or (practicing a known) creative skill, such as taking a painting, improv class, or creative writing course immediately after the tDCS session.
· For someone looking to improve mood: Reading/writing focused on identifying personal problems and boosting mood by learning how to modify dysfunctional thoughts and emotions (i.e., www.selfauthoring.com , cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT) phones apps and CBT workbooks sold online are a few options).
· For someone looking to enhance memory, practicing learned memory skills during the hour after the tDCS session.
The training should ideally be performed when neurons have been primed with tDCS (usually the primed state lasts for about an hour after a stimulation session). Quality training during the primed state (after tDCS has set neurons into a hyperexcitable state) will strengthen the specific network. In other words, tDCS can temporarily make neurons more receptive to quality training. Quality training over time can strengthen networks. These changes can be long lasting, sometimes even life-long.
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Disclaimer: Brain augmentation techniques such as those described in our website are not reviewed or approved by the FDA. The long-term consequences of tDCS may not be well understood. However, we accept that use of these techniques occur, and we believe that offering responsible, harm-reduction, and scientifically-recognized information is imperative to keeping people informed. For that reason, the articles, guides, courses, and videos in our website are designed to expand knowledge of those who decide to pursue/research these techniques.
The information and devices displayed on this site are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any medical disease, and this article is not considered to be medical advice. If a reader decides to purchase and use a tDCS machine, it is his or her responsibility to use it correctly and safely and ensure that it works correctly.