Most people would have no problem at all with the idea of becoming smarter, more in control of themselves and better able to remember everything from shopping lists to whale trivia.
Some use poorly regulated drugs in the quest for peak mental performance. Others keep their mind limber with challenging puzzles and games, but there might be a safer, more effective way: hooking wires up to your head and (gently) zapping your cranium with electricity.
This isn’t as moronic as it sounds. Though few doctors will claim outright that Transcranial Direct Cranial Stimulation (tDCS) is an effective treatment for anything other than depression, this doesn’t necessarily mean much: the medical community is notoriously conservative when it comes to accepting unconventional treatments.
Scientists, of course, are in the habit of studying how (and if) something like this works for quite a while before strapping someone to a machine and pressing “Go”. tDCS is pretty generally accepted as at least safe, though, so many doctors recommend it on the “can’t hurt” philosophy.
Note: tDCS is specifically not recommended for anyone prone to epileptic seizures.
It also has the advantages, in the case of this device, of being very portable, usable by anyone and capable of being adapted to your specific needs. While the manufacturer is careful not to make any claims that might get on the FDA’s nerves, their customers wax lyrical about what it has done for them, such as effectively dealing with:
- Anxiety, including PTSD,
- Nerve injuries and unexplained pain,
- Difficulty with focus and memory.
On the face of it, this may be partly due to the placebo effect. Still, many people are eager to get any relief whatsoever, even if it’s only in their heads, and the anecdotal evidence weighs heavily in tDCS’s favor.
On the negative side, while its feature set and price compare well to similar devices, it’s not the easiest of these to use – you’ll need at least a Youtube tutorial to get started. Most results seem to require at least a couple of weeks’ use (and we would be more skeptical if it promised instant relief).
Positioning the sponges accurately takes some care and they have to be soaking wet to work, which is unpleasant. A typical session only lasts between ten and twenty minutes, though, which is bearable. In a word, if you expect spectacular effects right off the bat and without learning at least a little about how tDCS works, you’ll probably be disappointed.
If, on the other hand, you’re patient and combine it with exercise and a generally healthy lifestyle, the rewards might be be well worth its price.