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What makes a high-quality tDCS device stand out from the rest? Is it build quality, accurate current delivery, automatic current ramp up/down, a built-in timer, a low battery indicator?
Reliability is one of the fundamental features to consider as you shop for your device. If you are in the market for tDCS equipment, there are a variety of products on the market to suit your needs. Our goal at Caputron is to help you get a good understanding of the recommended features to look for in a tDCS device and help you choose the best stimulator for your intended use.
A lot of people ask the question, "What is the best tDCS device I can buy?" Our goal at Caputron is to help you choose the best device for your intended use. With that in mind, we breakdown the features and advantages of the different tDCS stimulators as well as highlight what are the key features you should look for when choosing your very own device. For a detailed side by side comparison, view our tDCS Device Comparison Table.
When choosing a tDCS device, it is important to review the build quality of the device and if the device has been tested for safety and accuracy. There are many devices on the market, but only a select few have undergone extensive testing and received certification from an independent regulatory body. This list includes devices such as Activadose, Focus, Halo, and PlatoWork. tDCS stimulators that have undergone this testing do come with a higher price tag but also a more professional build.
A tDCS device is built with the goal of producing an accurate and stable direct current (DC) waveform. However, not all devices can reliably achieve this goal. Every tDCS user will have a different skin resistance (impedance) and needs to know if their device has enough power (voltage), to ensure a constant current delivery across these varying skin resistances. At Caputron, we recommend a minimum voltage of 20 volts for a device to have enough power to ensure a constant current delivery at 2 mA. This value was calculated using Ohms law, V = I * R (voltage = current * resistance). tDCS modeling software uses a value of 10,000 Ohms for the average value of skin impedance. If we want to be able to reliably achieve 2 mA of stimulation, then our device should be capable of providing 20 volts.
Another important feature about current delivery to consider is the ability of your device to automatically adjust the amount of voltage needed to provide a constant current. During stimulation, as the skin becomes used to the sensation of stimulation, the resistance begins to drop. Your device should be able to automatically "read" that new resistance and adjust its voltage to administer a constant current. This is a feature that would be found in a digital tDCS device such as the Activadose or Focus and not in analog tDCS devices such as Apex or Super Specific. For example, if you are using an Apex tDCS device and find yourself adjusting the current throughout a session, it is because the skin resistance is changing and you need to manually adjust the output.
Similar to how a device can adjust the output based on your skin resistance, a tDCS device should be able to slowly increase and decrease the current, over ~15-20 seconds, at the beginning and end of stimulation respectively. This is an important feature that should not be overlooked as it allows you to accommodate to the sensation of stimulation and prevents you from becoming light-headed at the onset of a session.
Analog devices will allow you to manually do this by rotating the current / intensity knob. This should be done slowly at the beginning and end of stimulation.
A nice feature to have in a tDCS device is an automatic timer. This will allow you to select your desired length of stimulation and not worry about missing your end of session alarm reminder. Most devices have this setting, though not all allow you to choose your own time but rather select from pre-set times of either 20 or 30 minutes.
A simple yet very important feature to look for in your device. A tDCS device works off a battery and it is the premise on which the technology was built. The device needs a clear visual indicator that will inform the user that the device does not have enough power left to complete a full session and the battery should be replaced.
The accessories that come with a tDCS device are an often over-looked feature. It is important that the accessories are well built and safe for use. Caputron highly recommends NOT using accessories that utilize an alligator clip for tDCS. A safe tDCS electrode will have a protective shell that completely hides the metal of the lead cable. A device that uses an alligator clip will have exposed metal that will cause burns if contact is made with the skin. Caputron also does not recommend using hydrogel electrodes for tDCS as these electrodes are designed for AC stimulation. When hydrogel electrodes are used with DC stimulation, the hydrogel quickly wears down and leaves the bare electrode in contact with the skin, resulting in burns. A tDCS device should come with sponge electrodes encased in a protective shell to reduce the risk of accidental burns during stimulation.
There are many tDCS devices available on the market, but few of them have undergone as much testing and have as much history as the Activadose.
When compared to other devices on the market, the Activadose tDCS is the only device with a professional grade build quality. The Activadose tDCS is featured in numerous publications as well as used daily in tDCS clinics and leading universities around the world. This tDCS device is recommended by professionals due to its reliability and professional-grade build quality. The Activadose tDCS is IEC 60601 EMC compliant, a main standard of electrical devices set by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).
What is a tDCS device?
tDCS devices are special neurostimulation systems that utilize a low-voltage electrical current to improve cognitive efficiency and wellness. In theory, they operate in a manner similar to giving a car a boost to help it perform at its peak; users equip themselves with the device, connected to special electrodes, to administer the current and stimulate key areas of the brain.
How do tDCS devices work?
tDCS is made possible by two types of electrodes, known as Anode and Cathode electrodes, each of which either positive or negative, respectively. This combination enables the electrical current to enter the body, reach the appropriate areas of the brain, and then safely exit the body to ensure it isn’t overstimulated. This is how tDCS systems work; as long as you target the right areas of the brain, you can benefit from the effects this technology provides.
How do I use a tDCS device?
The placement of electrodes plays a critical role in the tDCS process. By following the installation guidelines, key zones of the brain can be targeted to encourage different chemical reactions internally. This means everything from mood to mental state and even optimism can potentially be improved over multiple short treatment sessions. Check our electrode mapping guide for more details.
Are tDCS devices safe for me to use?
Absolutely. Not only is the current very low and completely controlled, but tDCS systems have failsafe protocols in place to protect against surges and overstimulation. Some of these devices are also CE cleared and have passed meticulous safety testings. Caputron only sells high-quality tDCS devices with a reputation for dependability and safety.
What are the specific benefits of a tDCS device?
In the United States, rigorous testing of tDCS systems is ongoing to determine official certification for the treatment of some conditions. Currently tDCS is considered investigational and is not cleared for a medical indication. These devices are designed to focus on general wellness.
Are tDCS devices expensive?
Caputron is proud to offer a wide array of tDCS devices to suit every budget and preference. Whether you want something basic and to the point or are interested in investing in higher-end units with more special features and design elements, we’re sure to have an ideal choice in stock. We also carry a steady supply of replacement electrodes, montage placement straps, and more. Typical device prices range between $100 and $500 US, though professional-grade variants are even costlier if necessary due to the special components and programming put into them.
Do I require special approval to use a tDCS device?
No. There are alternative stimulation treatments that require extra steps for verification purposes or the services of a trained expert, but tDCS is relatively simple to set up and use. If you’re feeling unsure, reach out to our team and we’ll be happy to guide you through the purchase and setup process.
What are the different waveforms used in tDCS systems?
There are some variations on the standard Direct Current of tDCS systems that offer different energy waveforms for unique effects. The most common are Alternating Current, Pulsed Current and Random Noise waveforms. However, it’s always best to check with the experts and verify the performance efficiency and quality of any tDCS device you’re considering. Our team is happy to help you make a more informed, safer and more cost-effective purchasing decision by guiding you on tDCS best practices and selecting an ideal system for your needs.
Disclaimer: Consumer tDCS products are not medical devices. These products does not claim to diagnose, assist, treat, improve, cure, or prevent any medical condition or ailment whatsoever.