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My New Neuro Toy

Hack your brain for fun and profit with tDCS. This post also references reports on the positive effects tDSC is having with autistics. Warning: If you plan on doing this yourself, RTFM (read the freaking manual! Links provided)

Blog Post : Duncan Stroud - Aug 22, 2015

About two years ago I listened to a very interesting radio cast about Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)

The short version is this: Plug a 9 volt battery into your brain (the right way) and ... viola! ... you’re a sharpshooter in 15 minutes, or a math wiz, or whatever… depending on where and how you “plug in”.

Not one to shy away from hacking my brain (ignoring the few ‘system crashes’ that has resulted in), I immediately set out to build one of these neuro-toys.

For about $30 I built this slick, hi-tech marvel. I was ready to plug-in, turn-on, and kick-ass, in exactly what, I was not sure … but I was sure it was going to be awesome.

What was awesome was the incredible headache I managed to create due to my not having a clue about what I was doing. Apparently I zapped my brain with too much juice for too long. I was never much for patience.

A little rest and some Ibuprofen and I was good to go for round 2 … but this time I decided to do a little research first.

For those interested I have published my notes here. They are a work in progress and some parts are missing or incomplete, but it provides some useful information and very good links.

I am not 100% percent sure if this ‘did’ anything because I felt totally normal when getting zapped. I was hoping to feel bigger/faster/smarter/better… but I didn’t. This was the same experience the reporter had when she went from being a bumbling nerd to a one-person ninja strike force. She felt no different and was convinced her testers had moved her to a more ‘appropriate’ (i.e. dumbed down) challenge based on her very poor results from the same test without tDSC.

This alone is very interesting. It’s like the opposite of drugs (from Prozac to cocaine), where the user feels the change, they feel different. In this case the user feels the same and they perceive their external reality to have changed. This is a pretty huge difference, as the drug induced state implicitly gives authority or validity to the cause (to which the user is responding to). This is a state that inevitably makes one susceptible to external circumstances, rather than keeping the center of intention (yes, that's intention, not attention) within one's own control.

There are a number of TDCS devices out there, or you can build your own if you're a DIY sorta person.

In my case it did seem to have an effect on my ability to solve puzzles. I tried to learn typing using this method, and again, I would say there was a definite improvement … but not enough, because after a few days I was SO BORED with the exercises that I could not stay awake more than two minutes once I started. If could not learn to type practicing thirty minutes a day for one week, well, it’s just not going to happen. Maybe I needed more voltage.

So why am I talking about this at all? Because only very recently has TDCS been used with autistics, with pretty remarkable results! [1][2][3]

OK, I have been told my posts are way too long, so I will stop here (but this really seems too short, even for an ADD-ite like myself).

[1] https://docs.google.com/document/d/1kIWl0umDnRIsKHRzrqkQu8BPqVZq6h-MTJ6LsFrLnD4/pub

[2] http://www.hindawi.com/journals/bn/2014/173073/

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24342925

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This was the intro video for the (now closed) crowd funding project.

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