amazing and disappointing both

I’ve used tdcs for 3 months now. Here’s my anecdotal report.


My main reason for tdcs is to improve cognitive funtion, specifically working memory. I have a “normal” person’s level of occassional depression and anxiety. I have no chronic condition.

Main benefit that I’ve received: more self-aware of how my brain “feels” or “is functioning”. Due to this self-awareness, I sometimes can help myself by getting my brain to adjust its “rhythm” or speed.

Initial Process

Two months ago, I started with the F3/Fp2 montage. I probably did it every day for 1 week. 2mA became too strong so the 2nd week I used 1.5mA and did sessions every 2-3 days.

I did the cambridgescience tests to monitor progress. I didn’t see any consistent uptick in those tests. I also did n-back tests at another site. I seemed to do worse on those tests than before I had started tdcs.

Branching Out

I tried both F3+,F4- and F4+,F3-. I think I did each 2-3 times. I couldn’t tell they made any difference.

In one week I probably did 3 different montages: F3+,Fp2- F3+,F4- T4+,T3- (Insight montage)

Cognitive Results

I can’t remember if it was this week of mixed montages or shortly after but I took the n-back test again. By this point, I had been using tdcs for 1 month. The test automatically advances you to the next level if you pass. Before tdcs, I’d worked my way up to level 16 — and it took me 3 months. Some levels I got stuck for 1-3 weeks before I passed up to the next level.

I started the test back at level 1 just to see how far I could get in a 20 minute session. This was after I’d done a tdcs session (F3,Fp2) and after I’d meditated about 15 minutes. Imagine my surprise when I easily got from level 1 to level 8 in just 15 minutes.

A few days later, I started at level 8. I made it up to level 16 in about 15 minutes.

I could “feel” my brain processing the n-back in a totally different, new way. The best way I can describe it is that my brain could store each individual piece of information in a separate location then quickly access that location on recall. Normally my brain tries to store all the pieces of information in one location and then I can’t separate them out fast enough when I need to answer if I saw/heard it 3 steps back.

The other difference was that my brain had no “noise”. As an analogy, imagine talking on a phone that has a lot of noise/static (if landline) or a weak signal (if cellular). The other party is not coming through crystal clear. There’s a buzzing going on that interferes. But when you have a clear connection on the line, everything comes through fine. So that is the way my brain was working that day. There was no buzzing in my brain. No interference. No “noise”. Just crystal clear quick connections in the brain. It was an amazing experience.

And it only happened that one time! Very frustrating. I have not gotten it back. I have again gotten stuck at different levels on the n-back test.

Other montages

I tried the pain: C3+, shoulder-. I only did it 3 consecutive days. I couldn’t tell that it made a difference. But there is no way to know if there would have been more pain if I had not done it.

DARPA for 3 weeks

I did DARPA montage F10+,shoulder- on Tue, Thu, Sat for 3 weeks. Once I did F3+,right shoulder on a Sunday. I ramped up to 1.5 for 10 min then 2mA for 10 min. Total time was usually 25 to 30 min. I also did meditation most days for 20 minutes.

DARPA claims accelerated learning and better focus. I didn’t notice any huge difference in learning. There was no difference in working memory on n-back tests. Some days I did have laser-like focus but not all the time. It did seem to give me some energy right after the session.

By the end of week 2, I noticed my sports playing had improved. I could see angles and patterns on the court I had not seen before. I was hitting shots I had not hit before.

Side Effects

Regardless of the montage, I might experience side effects.

Sometimes nauseous afterwards. Sometimes energized afterwards but other times I’d feel tired. If I did tdcs at night, I couldn’t sleep. I seemed to be ravenously hungry a lot, especially on DARPA. I’m talking about 500 extra calories a day! My vision improved but I don’t think that was because of tdcs – just a natural improvement. My hearing was sometimes better — based on the level of volume I use on my hemi-sync CD. Usually my mood was improved. But I did have 2 depressed days and had a hopeless feeling on one of those days. When I did TDCS in the mornings, I was disinclined to talk to anyone for up to 2 hours afterwards.

The best time of day for me with least side effects was afternoon. The session seemed to carry-over its effect into the next day(s) so I seldom did tdcs 2 days in a row after the initial first week.

My focus and concentration has improved. I hate multi-tasking now because I like the feeling of being totally focused on just one thing. But I can’t always do it and can still get that “scattered” brain feeling where it’s impossible to “settle down”.

My working memory has deteriorated as mentioned above.

After 1 week with no TDCS

By the end of week 3 on DARPA, I felt something in my brain quit working. I’ve been off tdcs for 1 week now. From the end of week 3 to now, I have not been able to pass any level of the 3-back test. I’ve tried any versions and can’t pass any of them. I don’t even come close to passing. My scores are generally below 50%. My sports playing has also deteriorated.

So to sum it up – I was amazed at my n-back results and disappointed it only happened once and now I’m worse than before tdcs.

Comments and questions welcome.

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