What’s the difference between Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) and Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES)?*

Difference between tDCS and CES

Confused about neuromodulation devices? This is unsurprising – the science involved can be complex. To help you decide between neuromodulation devices, here’s a look at the most common options. They are: transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES).

What Is Neuromodulation?

Neuromodulation is a type of technology used to alter nerve activity. It relies on using a stimulus (such as electricity) to change how nerves respond or behave.

Depending on how we use it, neuromodulation can increase activity in the nervous system or calm it down. The two most common devices we can use are tDCS and CES devices.

How Does tDCS Work?

tDCS is one of many forms of non-invasive neuromodulation. tDCS works by applying a low-energy direct current (DC) waveform to a targeted region of the brain.

  • tDCS influences neuroplasticity. It doesn’t cause neurons to fire, but it increases the chance of them firing under certain circumstances.
  • We can change electrode placement to target different parts of the brain. This means that tDCS has a potentially wide application.

At the onset of a tDCS session, a well-designed tDCS device will slowly ramp up the current to the target intensity. The tDCS device will then ensure a constant DC output for the duration of the session, followed by a gradual ramping down of the current to end the stimulation.

tDCS Device waveform

This figure shows the standard direct current (DC) waveform used in tDCS

Does tDCS Have Side Effects?

tDCS uses very low levels of energy to elicit a response. There are very few reported side effects and they are minor. As it’s a relatively new technology, though, tDCS long-term side effects are still unknown.

How Does CES Work?

Like tDCS, CES is a form of non-invasive neuromodulation. However, CES uses a very different waveform. CES relies on electrotherapy stimulation. This involves sending low-energy currents (AC) to the cranial nerves in the forehead.

CES is typically administered across the temples using sponge or hydrogel electrodes. However, it’s also suitable to use earclip electrodes.

CES is FDA cleared for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. A standard CES waveform can be seen in the image.

CES Device waveform

Does CES Have Side Effects?

Any reported CES device side effects are minor. This means it’s safe and low-risk for most people to try, especially if other therapies aren’t helpful.

Do you need more information on CES side effects? The Caputron team is happy to help.

Is tDCS FDA Approved?

tDCS is considered an investigational technology by the FDA. You’ll hear it discussed at CES side events and within the tech industry. However, it can’t be sold as a medical treatment yet.

tDCS is being researched for ADHD, impulse control, addiction, chronic pain, depression, and insomnia. In studies, tDCS might also improve attention, mathematical ability, learning, audio perception, and creativity.

New studies are conducted every day. tDCS has a promising future. That’s why it has CE clearance in Europe for managing chronic pain and depression symptoms.

Are you looking for a tDCS device? Here’s our round-up of the best tDCS devices.

Is CES FDA Approved?

CES is currently FDA cleared. It’s marketed to treat depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Doctors may also prescribe CES off-label to treat pain, addiction, improve focus, and other conditions.

You need authorization before buying a CES device as it’s a Class III medical device.

What Works Better, tDCS or CES?

It depends on what you need from the product. Here are some points to consider.

tDCS is not FDA cleared. As such, there are no medical claims associated with tDCS in the US. In Europe, though, tDCS is CE-cleared for the treatment of depression and chronic pain such as migraine or fibromyalgia.

What does this suggest? Chronic pain sufferers may want to try tDCS to see if it brings them any relief. They may find it helps them relax.

Unlike tDCS, CES is FDA-cleared for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. This technology has been around for many years. It’s widely available on prescription or with device authorization.

Physicians might prescribe CES as a drug-free way to help sufferers feel better. They might also suggest CES as a maintenance treatment for those using TMS devices.

tDCS and CES Devices at Caputron

We’ve covered the differences between tDCS and CES devices. Now, you can decide which device is best for you! Our team is always happy to help and answer any questions before you buy. But if you know what you’re looking for, shop our products today.

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