Best TDCS devices of 2017

Before you read further, be sure to check out my newest tDCS review on the Top tDCS devices available in 2018.

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a novel approach to the treatment of neurological and psychiatric illness.  It involves applying an electrical impulse or current to the scalp, thereby enhancing or diminishing the excitability of the cerebral cortex underneath the area of stimulation (What is TDCS?). Since the 1990s, there has been growing evidence to support the effectiveness OF tDCS for use in depression (for which it is currently A method of treatment), as well as other psychiatric and neurological disorders.  There is also evidence that it may enhance cognitive functioning in healthy individuals. It has been shown to be safe in the many studies in which it is used, with minimal side effects (the worst of which involves skin irritation at the site of stimulation). 

In the recent years, brain stimulation has gained popularity among people who desire to improve their memory and learning, or to self-treat for depression, insomnia, anxiety.

Because the longterm implications are unknown and the potential for negative side effects if the incorrect parameters are used, organizations such as the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology (IFCN) and the Annals of Neurology have released statements against 'do-it-yourself' TDCS use. Nonetheless, many people continue to express an interest in it and partake in its use due to self-reported claims that using TDCS improves their mood, helps improve sleep, and/or enhances cognition.

IF YOU DECIDE TO BUY A TDCS DEVICE, THE PROCESS MAY BE OVERWHELMING. IN THE RECENT YEARS THERE HAS BEEN A PLETHORA OF NEW DEVICES THAT HAVE EMERGED ON THE MARKET. NONE OF THESE ARE FDA-APPROVED FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT. 

MY GOAL WITH THIS ARTICLE IS TO HELP PROVIDE YOU WITH INFORMATION TO HELP YOU MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION IN CHOOSING A TDCS DEVICE, SHOULD YOU DECIDE TO DO SO. THE FOLLOWING DEVICES HAVE BEEN ON THE MARKET LONGER THAN OTHER DEVICES SOLD ONLINE, AND ALSO HAVE STRONG REPUTATIONs.

 

1. APEX Type A:    

Cost: $149.99

Pros: For the price and ease of use, this takes the number one spot in this review.

  • The device kit comes with everything included except for the battery and saline (easy to make at home-instructions are provided). 
  • The built-in analog meter allows you to slowly dial up the current, and allows you to see whether you have a good connection (and this delivering current through a complete circuit) -a feature not seen in many other devices.
  • The current dial also allows you to decide how much current you desire and how quickly you want to ramp up the amperage - maximum amperage for this device is 2mA (which is the maximum current used in studies involved in tDCS).
  • Customer service is fantastic and responsive.
  • The 18V system is much more efficient than commonly available 9V systems that may be unable to reach stimulation levels adequately.

Cons:

  • May not be as portable as other devices, so it may limit your mobility while using it. I usually meditate or read during my 20 minute sessions, so that factor isn't much of a problem. However, it's light weight enough to carry around if you do need move occasionally (13 ounces).
  • No timer 

2. TheBrainDriver tDCS v2.1

Cost: $139.97

Pros: 

  • Pocket sized and portable for travel (12ounces). 
  • Ease of use. 
  • Comes as a kit, so everything you need is included (except for the saline)
  • The smaller electrodes (2inch diameter) may theoretically concentrate the effects of the current applied to the brain region desired.
  • Four Selectable Current Levels; 0.5mA, 1.0mA, 1.5mA, 2.0mA
  • Timer included in the device (20 and 30 minute option)

Cons: 

  • No meter to ensure adequate current connection.
  • Only using one 9-V battery, so may have trouble reaching adequate stimulation levels.

 

3. TCT tCDS device

Cost: $389.00

Pros:

  • This device is used by clinical research scientists. If you want a device that has been on the market for a long time and that has been used by scientists, this might be the one.
  • The device continuously monitors electrode resistance to detect insufficient skin contact.
  • The device automatically terminates the stimulation session to prevent skin irritation or injury.
  • Current settings are from 0.5 to 2mA. The user can control current in 0.1mA increments.
  • Uses two 9-volt batteries to ensure adequate stimulation levels.

Cons:

  • Cost. The starter kit runs at $389.00, more than double the cost of other devices that are as effective.
  • Not as portable as other devices. Weight is 12.3 ounces.

 

4. Caputron tDCS devices

Cost: varies

Pros:

  • Caputron has been in business for a long time and offers a few different devices. The Caputron 12 Volt Analog Metered tDCS device runs at $125. It is a starter kit that includes everything, including the 12V battery (as the typical 9V batteries are usually not enough to provide sufficient current). There is an analog mA Panel Meter that allows you to control how much current is applied (up to 2.15mA) and ensure adequate connection. Electrodes are 3X3 inches. Does not include a timer.
    • Weight is 7.4 ounces

Cons

  • May not as portable as other tDCS devices.

 


 

5. Fisher Wallace stimulator

Cost: $699

Pros:

  • The only device that is FDA cleared (note: not FDA approved) for depression, insomnia, and anxiety
  • May also be used on the body to treat chronic pain

Cons:

    • Cost - much pricier than other devices, and requires online authorization in order to purchase. However it may be covered by some insurances if used for medical purposes.
    • Batteries used are 2 AA batteries, which may not provide enough voltage to maintain 2mA current for long according to other sources.
    • Max current is 2mA, however settings do not indicate current levels, rather they organized as four arbitrary levels (presumably 0.5,1,1.5, and 2mA???).
    • Is not a tCDS, rather it is a transcranial alternating current device (tACS). 

     

    I hope this article helps you in making a more informed decision about which tDCS device to buy. Remember that while studies show it to be safe for most people, there are certain conditions in which it may be unsafe (see Is Noninvasive Brain Stimulation / Transcranial Stimulation Safe?), and that most professionals advise supervision and guidance if one is to decide to use tDCS.

     

     

    Disclaimer: 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.