TDCS Treatment & Therapy

What is tDCS?

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive, pain-free brain stimulation treatment that utilizes direct electrical currents to stimulate specific anatomical targets in the brain. There are two subtypes of tDCS: anodal and cathodal stimulation. Anodal stimulation serves to increase neuronal activity whereas cathodal stimulation reduces neuronal activity. These two types of tDCS are used in different scenarios to treat different diagnoses.

tDCS Treatment

Treatment sessions typically range from 5-30 minutes and the total treatment course length will typically last for several weeks.  There are some minor side effects associated with the treatment including temporary skin redness, itching, tingling, and minor headaches.  After the initial phase of tDCS treatment may choose to receive instructions for proper use of the device and be provided with the portable tDCS device for self-application at home.

Why TDCS?

TDCS has about the same efficacy as antidepressant medication. However, TDCS is localized instead of impacting the entire body and brain as medications do, so TDCS has nearly no side effects. The more prevalent TMS has a slight risk of seizures, but TDCS does not. TDCS is most effective when patients are not on medication, so if you are unable to tolerate antidepressants or do not want to take them, TDCS may be the right treatment for you.

Additionally, many patients do not meet the insurance criteria for TMS and thus have to pay out of pocket. TDCS is not FDA approved and is not covered by insurance. However, this makes TDCS more accessible, and it is cheaper than TMS.

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Frequently asked Questions about TDCS

There are a wide range of diseases that tDCS can be used to treat. These include depression, anxiety, ADHD, multiple sclerosis, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, and other neuropsychiatric disorders.

Most neuropsychiatric applications of tDCS will target frontal cortex regions as these areas commonly involved in the pathophysiology (mechanism of disease) of these disorders. 

tDCS is not currently FDA-approved for OCD, but current research has shown that tDCS may be a promising treatment for OCD. However, these results are not conclusive and therefore tDCS for OCD is still an experimental treatment.

tDCS and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) share some similarities. Both treatments modify neural activity in specific targets in the brain to help alleviate symptoms of a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders. However, there are several key differences. While TMS has been thoroughly investigated and FDA-approved for both depression and OCD, tDCS is still an experimental treatment that is currently still being researched for its therapeutic potential. In addition, while TMS requires physically visiting a clinic to receive the treatment, tDCS is portable and can be administered in the comfort of your home.

The cost of tDCS treatment can vary widely. Basic tDCS devices cost around $200 whereas “research-grade” tDCS devices can cost thousands of dollars.

Clinical improvements resulting from tDCS treatment can vary in terms of how long those therapeutic effects can take to present themselves. It may take anywhere from a few days to several weeks for tDCS patients to notice improvements from the treatment.

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