Best TDCS devices of 2019: Review of the top tDCS devices this year

Transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) serves as a tool that can potentially modulate the neural circuits in the brain. TDCS does this by increasing or lowering neurons' threshold for sending electrical impulses. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that tDCS may be helpful in various psychiatric and neurological disorders. The European Chapter of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology released an article in 2017 proposing Level B recommendations (probable efficacy) for tDCS effectiveness on addiction/craving, depression, and certain types of chronic pain.

In the recent years, brain stimulation with tDCS has gained popularity among people who desire to improve their memory and learning, or to self-treat for depression, insomnia, anxiety. The longterm implications of tDCS are unknown. Due to 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. Hence, it is important to find someone who is knowledgeable and who can teach you how to use the tDCS device correctly. 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. None of the tDCS devices offered online are FDA approved for medical treatment. Moreover, some of them have been shown to adversely affect cognition.

I HAVE SIFTED THROUGH THE TDCS DEVICES THAT ARE CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ONLINE, AND HAVE ARRIVED AT MY 2019 REVIEW. THIS YEAR, THERE ARE ONLY FOUR ON OUR LIST.

Below are the highest ranked tDCS devices of 2019. A few are tried and true devices that have been on my list in past years. These devices come from reputable device-makers and have been on the market longer than other devices.

Please refer to our Neuromodulation page for more up-to-date information on tDCS and other noninvasive brain stimulation techniques. And please subscribe to our website to stay up-to-date on my articles and videos on tDCS as well as other brain-related topics.

 

1. CAPUTRON ACTIVADOSE II TDCS STARTER KIT

Rating: 4.9 / 5.0                                Cost: $399.00

This tDCS device is one of the only medical grade devices on the market that does not require a prescription, and is is the only FDA-cleared tDCS device on the market. This is the device that I personally use at home.

Pros:

  • Has a display that indicates dose, time and current

  • Has an automatic current ramp-up and ramp-down that provides maximum comfort

  • Battery life monitor, which informs user when battery needs replaced.

  • Light weight and portable - device is one of the lightest on the market (0.53 lbs. (.24 kg))

  • Measurement-marked head strap. While the head strap initially felt a bit cumbersome, once I understood how to use it, it allowed for accurate electrode placement (for details on head strap use see: https://caputron.com/products/caputron-universal-strap)

  • Open circuit indicator

  • Featured in numerous scientific publications

  • While the device uses a single 9-volt battery (in other devices, single 9V systems may be less effective at reaching stimulation levels adequately), however this device contains an internal voltage booster which ensures adequate current at all times during stimulation.

Cons

  • One of the more costly tDCS devices on the market. However, keep in mind it is medical grade and has many features that other tDCS devices do not offer. Also, if you buy through their website and use the coupon code 'NEUROGAL' you will receive a generous discount (link: https://caputron.com/products/activadose-ii-starter-kit?variant=5427241812030)

  • Maximum current is 4 mA, which is double the maximum current deemed safe in tDCS studies (2 mA). Hence, there is potential for misuse if the user does not have experience. However, Caputron offers a separate device that is also FDA cleared whose maximum current limit is 2 mA - an option for those concerned about safety with the original device.


 2. TDCS APEX TYPE A

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0                          Cost: $159.99

Pros: For the quality, price and ease of use, this tDCS device takes a close second place.

(paid link)

  • Device kit comes with everything included ( two headbands, which improves stability of electrodes on the head) except for the batteries and saline (easy to make at home-instructions are provided).

  • The built-in analog meter allows you to detect whether you have a good connection (ensures delivery of current through a complete circuit).

  • The current dial 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 (the maximum current used in studies involved in tDCS).

  • Customer service is fantastic and responsive.

  • The 18V system is more efficient than commonly available 9V systems that may be unable to reach stimulation levels adequately.

Cons:

  • May not be as portable as other tdcs devices. However, it's light weight enough to carry around if you do need move occasionally (13 ounces).

  • Headbands are not measurement-marked, so accuracy of electrode placement may be compromised. (paid link)

  • No timer or battery life indicator

  • Not FDA cleared. However, it has been on the market for a long time compared to other devices (it was my first tDCS device ever!). I rate it highly because it offers quality at a more affordable cost.


    The product is offered on Amazon and Caputron. If you buy through Caputron’s website and use the coupon code 'NEUROGAL' you can receive a generous discount (link: https://caputron.com/products/apex-type-a-tdcs-device?variant=5427100024894&aff=4 ).


3. THE BRAINDRIVER TDCS V2.1

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 Cost: $139.99

(paid link)

Pros: 

  • Pocket sized and portable tDCS for travel (12ounces).

  • Less expensive than other tDCS devices

  • Comes as a kit, so everything you need is included (except for the saline)

  • Four Selectable Current Levels; 0.5mA, 1.0mA, 1.5mA, 2.0mA

  • Automatic shut off when electrodes are not properly connected

  • Timer included in the device (20 and 30 minute option)

Cons: 

  • No battery life indicator

  • The smaller electrodes (2-inch diameter) may increase the risk of burns

  • The device uses a single 9-volt battery (single 9V systems may be less effective at reaching stimulation levels adequately; however this has not been problematic for me- the stimulation parameters on the meter never indicate inadequate stimulation).

    Product is offered on Amazon and Caputron. If you buy through Caputron’s website and use the coupon code 'NEUROGAL' you will receive a generous discount (link: https://caputron.com/products/braindriver-tdcs?aff=4)


4. Halo Sport

Rating 3.8/5 Cost: $299.00

Note: this tDCS device is intended specifically for athletes seeking to enhance physical performance or musicians who desire to improve their instrument-playing skills

Pros:

  • Multiple clinical studies showing effectiveness of the Halo device in enhancing exercise and sport performance, as well as fine motor movement performance and learning (i.e., piano playing)

  • The headset comes with fixed placement of electrodes. This makes it easy to use since you don’t have to measure electrode locations. This may be convenient for those whose only intention is to improve motor skills (i.e., enhancing physical abilities or playing a musical instrument more skillfully).

Cons:

  • The headset, while it may be easy to use, has a fixed montage protocol. In other words, the anodal and cathodal electrodes are fixed and so the device cannot be used for purposes other than sports skill enhancement or fine motor skill enhancement.

  • For the narrow intended use of this device, it is costly.

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Please note that some of the links on this page are ‘paid links.’ I will receive a small portion of the sale from any purchase made through the links. I use money earned from affiliate links to financially support this website so that I can continue to create high quality educational content for my readers.

*Ratings are based on a 5-point scale and incorporate length of time on the market, quality of the device, cost, product’s ease of use, availability, and customer reviews from various websites.

Disclaimer: Brain augmentation techniques such as those described in our website may not be reviewed or approved by the FDA. The long-term consequences 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. You should speak with your doctor if you have medical questions and should seek medical attention if you have a medical problem.

Please note I received the caputron tdcs device as a complementary gift from the manufacturer. This did not influence my decision in including the device in the review.