Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (TDCS): Is it Effective for Treating Depression
Depression is an off-putting but surprisingly a common and difficult to heal psychiatric disorder that needs instant medical care and psychological therapy. However, even more shocking is the fact that a considerable number of patients suffering from major depression hardly respond to the primary medical treatments such as antidepressants. Therefore, these people are more likely to suffer from depression for a prolonged period despite undergoing the medical treatment.
However, to reduce this risk, a set of new brain stimulation treatments are being introduced as well as investigated to determine their have therapeutic effects during the treatment regimen of major depressive disorder. One such evolving treatment is the Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (TDCS), a non-invasive form of neurostimulation that is known to be effective in safely treating several clinical conditions including depression. In this article, let’s comprehend how this new neurotherapy is effective for treating depressive patients who do not respond to medicines.
What is Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation and How it is Beneficial
TDCS for depression is a neurostimulation therapy, which makes use of a constant, low current that is passed directly to the targeted brain area through the small electrodes that are located on the scalp. This current is so low that the patient hardly tends to feel it and is given to the brain via the skull. Such a brain stimulation therapy aims at reversing the abnormal activity in the brain, which is responsible for pain, drug craving, and depression symptoms. TDCS is also effective in boosting the functioning of the frontal lobe and reducing the distractibility in those suffering from attention deficit disorder. Even in healthy people, it has boosted memory and learning power along with the verbal and motor skills.
Is Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation a New Hope
According to the latest TDCS research published on Technology Review, the transcranial direct current stimulation could boost memory in participants who are asked to learn and remember any 12 words. The outcome was noticeable in the early trials, wherein the participants who were given the same list again and again could remember more words.
Some more trials concluded that TDCS has been effective in depressive patients in whom it reduces the symptoms by 40-60% in just a period of 5-10 days. This is because it has the power to boost memory, sleep, physical activity, and motor function without much use of medications. Let’s now see how this brain stimulation therapy works.
Above all, this brain stimulation technique has been approved by FDA for treating major depression.
How the Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Functions
The patient who needs relief reclines or sits in a relaxed position. Then, the health care practitioner attaches two electrodes, each of 2 inches, to the outside of skull but without inflicting pain. On the skin that is under these two devices, the patient might experience a mild itching or tingling. However, this sensation goes away at the end of transcranial stimulation.
Next, a very low current is sent via the electrodes for at least 20 minutes for treating the particular areas of the pain that are identified according to the condition. Although weak, the current is quite powerful enough to stimulate the neuron activity in the brain. During the therapy, the brain tissues that are under the positive electrode become excited, while those under the negative electrode are comparatively less excited.
Understanding the Devices Used for the Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation
Transcranial stimulation is simple and it includes two electrodes along with device running on a 9-volt battery to pass a stable current of 1-2 microamps constantly to form an electromagnetic field for modulating the neuron activity n the cerebral cortex. This device boasts a cathodal electrode as well as an anodal electrode, of which the latter is positively charged electrode while the former is negatively charged. When the switch is turned on, the current passes to the cathodal electrode via the anodal electrode, forming a circuit. The batter-powered device also has controls for setting the current along with the duration of the brain stimulation.
Comprehending the Various Types of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation
Transcranial stimulation is of three types: cathodal, anodal, and sham. The cathodal stimulation aims at reducing the excitement of neurons in the area of interest to obtain a more stable activity level, while the anodal stimulation increases the same. The sham stimulation or the control stimulation is vital because it passes a brief current but goes off for the rest of the duration of stimulation. This means that the patient does not realize that a prolonged stimulation is being received and paves the way for different experiments.
How is the Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Administered
Transcranial stimulation might be performed in the doctor’s office wherein 5 sessions of 20 minutes each are held for 5 continuous days. Occasionally, another series of five sessions might be held for maximum improvement in the depression symptoms.
Are there any Side Effects of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation
Thankfully, there no major side effects of TDCS apart from slight dizziness and skin lesions, the latter being visible due to high current of 2mAmpere over a 2-week period. However, these lesions are healed in 1-3 weeks after the TDCS therapy without scars. Furthermore, the occurrence of lesions is totally dependent on the duration and intensity of TDCS along with the impedance between the skin and electrode.
It is also good to know that the TDCS therapy is relatively cheap as compared to other electronic treatments, non-invasive, easy to administer, safe, and painless.
How Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Differs from Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
ECT utilizes a powerful current that are passed under general anesthesia, while TDCS makes use of low current while the patient is awake. Further, TDCS never triggers effects such as muscle twitches and seizures. So, overall, TDCS is a painless treatment to obtain relief from chronic pain.
Are There any Other Uses of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation
Yes, TDCS is useful for treating the following conditions:
- Stroke and migraine
- Chronic pain
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Central and neuropathic chronic pain
- Anxiety disorders
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Pain from fibromyalgia, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica
- Narcotic withdrawal symptoms
- Drug, nicotine, alcohol cravings