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Supercharge Your Brain With Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation

tDCS

As the electrodes are placed on your head, you wonder what the sensation of electricity running through your brain will feel like. You’re in a bare room that resembles a doctor’s office, but instead of blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes, there are wires that run from your head to a box that will be transmitting electricity in just a few moments.

No, you aren’t in the electric chair about to be punished for your crimes, but instead, you are about to undergo Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) to see if you can capture one of its many possible benefits. While this may seem like a fringe, woo-woo treatment only dabbled in by extreme brain biohackers, there have actually been over 3,000 studies done on tDCS [1].

What Is Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation?

tDCS set upBefore we go any further, it would be helpful to know what tDCS is. In short, the therapy involves attaching up to 20 electrodes to various parts of the head depending on which areas of the brain you are trying to target. These electrodes will then emit a weak (.28-.8 mA/cm2) current of electricity across your brain. Sessions typically last between 10-30 minutes and many studies have patients complete around 10 sessions within a two-week period.

As we know, neurons and synapses rely on electricity to pass information to one another, so introducing new electricity can alter this process [2]. This electrical stimulation travels through the brain, modifying connections along the way, the changes sustainable long after treatment. It’s interesting learning about how it works, but you’re probably wondering “why even bother with it?”

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Can Help You

tDCS For Mental Health

As far-out as tDCS may seem, there are many studies showing a variety of different benefits. First, research has found tDCS to work well for a variety of different psychiatric disorders. A review by Bennabi and Haffen displayed many interesting studies that investigated the effect tDCS had on conditions such as major depressive disorder (MDD).

Worldwide, around 7% of people experience MDD, but many patients fail to see positive results from common pharmaceutical treatment options. However, we know that certain parts of the brain (left prefrontal cortex, for example) in people with MDD aren’t as active as they should be, so in theory, stimulating them with tDCS could help their condition.

Studies On The Effect tDCS Has Regarding Mental Health

In one randomized controlled study, 40 participants with major depression were subjected to 1mA of electricity for 10 minutes over 10 sessions and some promising results followed. After being evaluated using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and the Beck Depression Inventory, depression was lowered significantly when compared to the control group. A few more studies were carried out by the same scientists and depression was lowered by an average of 40.4% in the tDCS group versus 10.4% for the control.

tDCS for depressionIt has also been found that a combination of tDCS and traditional pharmaceutical treatment worked better than tDCS by itself. However, it hasn’t really been investigated if tDCS and other natural depression treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, meditation, or journaling would have a synergistic effect.

From my own research, I know that alternative therapies like the ones I mentioned have been proven to help with anxiety and depression, so I assume combining it with something like tDCS would only enhance its effects. In the US, tDCS remains an experimental treatment for depression but has been adopted in many parts of Europe as a legitimate treatment option.

“this technique has gained renewed interest as a practical tool for the modulation of cortical excitability and the treatment of psychiatric disorders”

tDCS For Boosting Brain Power

tDCS for cognitive enhancement is where you need to be careful as many companies are trying to make a quick buck by claiming that you can strap their device to your head, flick the switch and increase IQ by 50% or something of the sort. While some of these statements are just a money-making scheme, there has been real research showing that tDCS can, in fact, lead to cognitive improvements.

The cognitive enhancing effects have been promising enough for the US Department of Defense to take notice. They even performed their own single-blind study where participants were subjected to 2.0 mA of tDCS for 30 minutes. Electrodes were attached in areas that would stimulate the right frontal and parietal cortex which are involved in learning.

They then underwent a real-world virtual training exercise where participants identify threat-related objects that are concealed in a natural environment. The results? There was a significant improvement in the experimental group’s ability to identify the objects. fMRI also showed increased activity in the brain regions of interest [3].

“the application of anodal tDCS over these regions can greatly increase learning, resulting in one of the largest effects on learning yet reported. The methods developed here may be useful to decrease the time required to attain expertise in a variety of settings.”

Other studies done in ‘healthy’ people suggest that tDCS can improve working memory, attentional control, decision making, and creativity [1].

Is Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation For You?

All of the positive research surrounding tDCS means that you should definitely go buy a set for yourself, right? Well, it is a bit more nuanced than that. First, despite a majority of research showing that tDCS does work, it would be disingenuous not to mention that there are a handful of studies in every category showing tDCS has no effect at all.

Furthermore, a lot of research has concluded that the effectiveness of tDCS may heavily rely on individual factors such as personality, genetics, age, and skull thickness. In addition to this, there really are no standard operating procedures when it comes to variables like the number of electrodes, placement of electrodes, electrical current strength, and duration of each session. Much more research needs to be done to solidify these aspects of tDCS.

The Main Takeaway

Although we do need more definitive research, I believe that based on current evidence tDCS can work for many people and serves as a relatively cheap and safe way to improve depression symptoms and cognitive function especially if you are looking for a different therapy route.

Don’t hesitate to do your own research on the therapy and treatment options available to you. Whether you decide to try a DIY tDCS device or consult a therapy center is up to you, but either way, make sure to consult your primary care physician first. All in all, keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to try something new.

A video of tDCS self-administration (skip to 1:56):

A more in-depth explanation of tDCS itself:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4362220/

Some of the top tDCS DIY devices I found online:

https://apexdevice.net

https://www.fisherwallace.com

https://thebraindriver.com

Here is an example of a therapy center:

http://tmslab.org/tmscore-servicesoffered.php

Have you ever tried tDCS?

Let us know what you thought in the comments!

 

References:

[1] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-diy-brain-booster-devices-work/

[2] http://www.mdpi.com/2076-3425/8/5/81

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3387543//

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Psychedelics Show Medicinal Promise & Researchers Want Legality

photo-1454190358526-f809c8b16d98The legal classification of psychedelic substances has created controversy for decades, cost trillions of dollars, and countless lives, but with recent scientific advancements, controversy has expanded. Researchers have been discovering incredibly beneficial effects provoked by the use of substances such as psilocybin, MDMA, DMT, and LSD. At the same time, government legal classifications all over the world describe many psychedelics as having no benefits and opponents of legalization claim these substances can be dangerous.

While the controversial arguments continue to keep psychedelic drugs illegal in vast areas of the world, every year researchers are discovering more therapeutic benefits from several different psychedelics. Silicon Valley is a hotspot in the midst of controversy. People ranging from company CEO’s to young tech professionals are claiming that micro-dosing psychedelics such as psilocybin, LSD, and mescaline allows them to work smarter and more creatively. (Barbar Sahakian, Camilla D’Angelo & George Savulich, 2017). The current legal classification of psychedelic substances, many being schedule 1 drugs, makes it almost impossible to fund continuous research. Proponents of legalizing or reclassifying psychedelic substances argue that they have the potential to bring about significant medicinal value and the systematic scheduling of drugs limits modern medicine. Opponents of legalizing psychedelics believe that the substances possess psychological dangers. But, do these dangers outweigh benefits?

Researchers from the EmmaSofia organization in Oslo, Norway claim that psychedelics are no more dangerous than common activities including playing soccer or riding a bike (Krebs, 2015).


The Literature Review

A psychedelic substance is defined by its ability to induce heightened states of awareness and induce altered states of perception. The use of psychedelics throughout human history has been commonplace. To further interpret the controversy of psychedelic drugs in today’s society, a concise review of relevant literature will follow. This review will begin with the relevant literature, which describes the potential beneficial and therapeutic effects of psychedelic substances as outweighing the consequential effects. Furthermore, the position of those with the belief that psychedelic substances should remain illegal in regards to no medicinal value will be subsequent.

The Argument Against Current Classification

Lately, researchers studying the effects of psychedelic substances have made tremendous advancements. But, in many countries psychedelic substances are classified as schedule one or schedule two drugs regarded as having no therapeutic benefits as well as a high potential for abuse. For example, LSD and Peyote are classified as schedule 1 drugs by the U.S. government, while drugs such as Cocaine and Methamphetamine are classified as schedule two. This kind of classification systematically creates immense obstacles when it comes to funding research into psychedelic substances, making it nearly impossible (Rucker, 2015). Researchers all over the world agree if we are to better understand the potential benefits of psychedelics than they need to be reclassified. This pertains to governments all across the globe including the U.S. and U.K. If we are to take advantage of the therapeutic benefits psychedelics may possess, the first step would be addressing the current literature and rescheduling psychedelic substances to instigate research.

The Argument In Favor Of Legalization On The Basis Of Therapeutic Benefits

One of the main arguments in favor of legalizing psychedelic substances focuses on the safety of these substances, and many scientists claim they are safer than we’ve been previously told. Researchers have been conducting studies administering psychedelic substances to patients in clinical contexts with promising results. For example, researchers at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center administered moderate doses of manuel-barroso-parejo-17159psilocybin to patients with OCD four times, at least a week apart, patients who had previously failed drug therapy. The results yielded dramatic improvements in the patients OCD symptoms as measured using the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) with no safety concerns (Kirn, 2007).

Moreover, using the Pahnke-Richards Mystical Experience Questionnaire, 60% were determined to have had a full mystical experience. 70% rated the experience as among the top five meaningful experiences of their lives, ranking it on par with the birth of a child or a parent’s death. And 80% said it changed their sense of worth or satisfaction positively. All of this from taking a mushroom?

The therapeutic benefits of psychedelics are not limited to psilocybin. Researchers studying the effects of MDMA on patients who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder are also finding promising results. Several studies have suggested that MDMA assisted psychotherapy relieves PTSD. In one particular study Belmont, MA-based Rick Doblin, Ph.D. administered MDMA to twelve subjects during two psycho-assisted therapy sessions 3-5 weeks apart. Eight people received the placebo. At the end of the study, 80 percent of the trial group no longer met the requirements of PTSD stipulated by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV-TR). While only 25 percent of the control group showed improvements with PTSD symptoms (2010). Considerable amounts of studies are showing similar therapeutic benefits from a whole range of psychedelic substances. These benefits have the ability to cut healthcare costs and open patients up to new and improved medicine researchers claim.

The Argument Against Legalization

Many people believe that certain drugs are illegal due to the physical dangers they possess to the user. This is not always the case. However, in regards to psychedelic substances, there may be psychological risks. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the long-term effects of psychedelics and hallucinogens include persistent psychosis including symptoms of disorganized thinking, paranoia and mood changes (2016). Research has also shown that psychotic-like symptoms can occur in those who have a history of unstable mental illness.

The NIDA also states “Marked psychological distress, including feelings of extreme panic, fear, anxiety, paranoia, invulnerability, exaggerated strength, and aggression” can occur as a result of higher doses with psychedelics (2016). The most common concerns about psychedelics cater to the safety of the drugs. Because psychedelics cause chemical changes to the brain that may result in emotional or physiological damage, they are considered dangerous. According to researchers at Washington University, the psychedelic substance known as LSD produced profound changes in the blood flow to the brain, electrical activity, communication patterns and alters our brains conscious patterns (Carhart-Harris, et al., 2015). While plenty of legal drugs interact with the chemical balance of the brain, the profound patterns in which psychedelic drugs affect consciousness scare people.

It’s important to note that while the notion of changing our brain’s chemistry and consciousness is perceived as dangerous and therefore used as an argument against legalization, many researchers who yield these results are further intrigued. “This uniquely comprehensive examination of the LSD state represents an important advance in scientific research with psychedelic drugs at a time of growing interest in their scientific and therapeutic value” (Carhart-Harris, et al., 2015). Therefore, it may be beneficial to open up to these substances without a preconceived notion of fear. Similiar methods of changing our brain chemistry have been seen with long-term meditation.


Researchers Believe Keeping Psychedelics Illegal Makes Almost No Sensesebastian-leon-prado-442031

Researchers at Johns Hopkins conducted a study in which 15 participants, who on average smoked 19 cigarettes a day for 31 days, were given a psilocybin in two subsequent sessions. After a 6 month follow-up, the success rate for smoking cessation was 80 percent. 

The systematic scheduling of drugs in the United States is arbitrary, which leads to a discriminative social injustice according to many. Some psychedelic substances such as Psilocybin are schedule 1 drugs, while alcohol and nicotine are legal. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) both alcohol and nicotine are proven to be harmful and addictive (2017). Conversely, Psychedelic substances have not been proven to be addictive. This equates to discrimination against someone who may prefer the effects of psilocybin to nicotine, even under the science that indicates nicotine and alcohol have a higher potential for abuse. Unfortunately, many political factors come into play regarding the legal status of drugs. Industries such as pharmaceutical, tobacco, and alcohol harbor the most money and have an influence on the legality of drugs whether they are safe or not. While legalizing psychedelic substances would most likely cut into profits for these large industries they would bring about economic benefits as well.

Legalizing psychedelic substances could have significant economic advantages over keeping the substances illegal. The current legality surrounding psychedelics creates an unsafe black market; instead, the market for psychedelics could be taxed and safely regulated by legalizing these substances. For example, the state of Colorado has made over 500 million dollars in tax revenue from recreationally legalizing marijuana between 2014 and May of 2017 (Newman, 2017). That’s 500 million dollars going to k-12 education, transportation development and construction projects instead of street dealers. Not only would legalizing psychedelics have the potential to bring in tax revenue, but also regulating the market would create safer products. While most psychedelics are nearly impossible to overdose on, getting the wrong substance as a result of buying off the street could present dangers and even land you in the hospital. Therefore, legalizing psychedelics would potentially cut hospital costs, create tax revenue, and create a more stable and safe market.

When used in the right context, almost all psychedelic substances have been shown to be safe, especially under clinical supervision. While psychedelics can create a profound sense of distortion from reality, urging the importance of putting yourself in the right setting with the right people, there is little evidence that links psychedelics to toxic effects on the brain or body. So much so that researchers from the EmmaSofia organization in Oslo, Norway claim that psychedelics are no more dangerous than common activities including playing soccer or riding a bike (Krebs, 2015). Psychedelic substances are known for altering your perception of reality, which could be dangerous if you’re somewhere that presents physical risks, but research suggests the psychedelics themselves do no damage physically. Not only are the psychedelics safe but they also provide therapeutic benefits.

samuel-zeller-113381The most fascinating aspect of psychedelics may be the immense amount of therapeutic potential they possess. Various psychedelics including but not limited to LSD, Psilocybin, DMT, and MDMA have already shown clinical evidence of benefiting people with all sorts of disorders. Researchers at Johns Hopkins conducted a study in which 15 participants, who on average smoked 19 cigarettes a day for 31 days, were given a psilocybin in two subsequent sessions. After a 6 month follow-up, the success rate for smoking cessation was 80 percent. The approximate 6-month success rate for the most effective smoking cessation drug on the market, Varenicline, is 35 percent. The study suggests Psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms, plays an important role in restructuring our addictive behavior patterns.

Conclusion

Research has unveiled the bountiful and beneficial effects of psychedelic compounds yet they remain illegal. Millions of people throughout the United States suffer from PTSD, anxiety, depression, OCD and other grave illnesses. Currently, prescription medications only fill the void with covering up the symptoms temporarily. Psychedelics may very well be the answer. Research into the beneficial effects of psychedelics is nothing short of astounding. Researchers believe if we were to legalize certain psychedelic compounds, even solely for therapeutic purposes, we would be contributing to advancing medical innovation instead of halting it.

What’s your stance on psychedelics? 

Reference:

BMJ. (2015, May 26). Psychedelic drugs should be legally reclassified as they may benefit patients, experts say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 11, 2017, from       www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150526215030.htm
Kirn, T. F. (2007, July). Psilocybin results inspire researchers. Clinical Psychiatry News35(7), 1+. Retrieved from  http://go.galegroup.com.libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE    &sw=w&u=oran95108&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA167255918&asid=799053           8e1fad4cf6da37a9e0e40dc025
Multimodal Neuroimaging, Neural Population Models for. (2015). Encyclopedia of  Computational Neuroscience, 1765-1765. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-6675-   8_100370
NIDA. (2016, January 11). Hallucinogens. Retrieved from    https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/hallucinogens on 2017, August    12
NIDA. (2017, March 16). Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products. Retrieved from   https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cigarettes-other-tobacco-  products on 2017, September 12
Nutt, D. (2015). Illegal Drugs Laws: Clearing a 50-Year-Old Obstacle to Research. PLoS    Biology, 13(1), e1002047. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002047
Protecting the human rights of people who use psychedelics Krebs, Teri Suzanne The Lancet Psychiatry, Volume 2 , Issue 4 , 294 – 295

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Burn Fat? Improve Endurance? Fight Depression? Meet Rhodiola.

Rhodiola rosea, or the golden root, is a powerful adaptogen with plenty of research behind it. Adaptogens are a category of plants that help your body adapt to physical, chemical, and environmental stress. It’s safe to say Rhodiola is one of the most efficacious of these plants. The herb grows at high altitudes in arctic areas surrounding Asia and Eastern Europe. The Vikings used this herb for strength and the Sherpas used it to help climb high altitudes including Mt. Everest. If you want a boost in cognition, strength, endurance, or a decrease in stress I suggest you read on.

Rhodiola’s Stress Fighting Capabilities

rhodiola 2Similar to other adaptogens, Rhodiola provides a biological fortification against stress. In fact, a study in roundworms suggests that Rhodiola acts as a gentle stressor following ingestion, followed by a boost in the organism’s stress defenses. This is an incredible process technically defined as ‘hormesis’.

In 2009, scientists in Sweden conducted a human trial to test Rhodiola’s effect on people “suffering with stress related fatigue”. They found that repeatedly administering of Rhodiola rosea “exerts an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate, and decreases cortisol response to awakening stress in burnout patients with fatigue syndrome.” This once again showing the effect of hormesis, only this time, in humans.

We’ve all heard of fight or flight, right? Our systems go into fight or flight all the time just from little everyday stressors. This causes our cortisol levels to shoot through the roof, which promotes a lowering of the blood glucose response, potential weight gain, hormone imbalance, weakened immunity and decreased memory, aside from simply making us feel uncomfortable. These are perfect examples of how important it can be to keep stress and cortisol levels in check. Well, for just ten minutes of your time educating yourself and using your resources like a boss you too could keep your cortisol balanced! All you have to do is take Rhodiola. [4]

Cortisol levels can increase the rate at which we age, therefore Rhodiola can work as an anti-aging herb making you feel and look your best.

There are many benefits of taking the golden root, one of the most amazing may be that Rhodiola helps your body burn stored fat as fuel. This is due to the active compound called rosavin, which has been proved to trigger a fat burning response in your body and is found in Rhodiola.

A controlled placebo study done on 130 overweight patients at Georgian State Hospital showed that taking Rhodiola rosea extract daily led to a mean weight loss of 19 pounds (11% reduction in body fat), compared to only 8 pounds of loss by the placebo group eating the exact same low-calorie diet. [1]

Calling All Athletes

autumn-goodman-242803

If you’re any bit serious about your stamina and endurance, then you should try taking Rhodiola. Rhodiola can significantly increase your red blood cell count. Yes, you read that right! Red blood cells carry oxygen to muscles and having a higher red blood cell count can drastically delay fatigue while improving performance.

In 2004, a study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism claimed the anti-inflammatory benefits of Rhodiola caused rapid muscle recovery and improved endurance. [2]

Even if you aren’t a serious athlete, you can still experience plenty of benefit by taking Rhodiola. You could be a student, stay at home mother or father, or intense entrepreneur and still enjoy Rhodiola’s proven ability to increase workplace performance and decrease the effects of sleep deprivation. [3]

I recommend taking Rhodiola with a protein shake, if you use the powder, 30 minutes prior to your workout. You can thank me later.

Depression and Overall Brain Function

Rhodiola works to increase neuron sensitivity in the brain, in specific, two neurotransmitters: serotonin and dopamine. These are the neurotransmitters involved in our focus, memory, pleasure, and mood.

In a clinical trial of 150 individuals suffering from depression, participants were given Rhodiola rosea for exactly one month.  At the end of the trial two-thirds of the group had full remission of depression symptoms and daytime weakness had also greatly improved. [5] In addition, some physicians have been recommending Rhodiola as a treatment for ADHD because of its ability to increase focus.

grant-ritchie-530779

How to Take Rhodiola/Supplementation

Look for products similar to those studied in clinical trials; 2-3% rosavin and 0.8-1% salidroside. Start with 100 mg once a day for a week and then increase the dosage by 100 mg every week, up to 400 mg a day, if needed. I’ve been taking Rhodiola for over a year now, as a boost for my workouts. It shouldn’t be too expensive and I’d have to say it pays for itself anyways. Stay healthy stay happy!

We’d like to hear from you…

Have you tried Rhodiola? If so what are your thoughts on it?

Have you tried any other adaptogens? 

 

References:

  1. Zakir Ramazanov, Z. et al. (1999) “New secrets of effective natural stress and weight management, using Rhodiola rosea and Rhodendron caucasicum” ATN/Safe Goods Publishing, CT.
  2. De Bock K, Eijnde BO, Ramaekers M, Hespel P. Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Jun;14(3):298-307.
  3. Abidov M, Crendal F, Grachev S, Seifulla R, Ziegenfuss T. Effect of extracts from Rhodiola rosea and Rhodiola crenulata (Crassulaceae) roots on ATP content in mitochondria of skeletal muscles. Bull Exp Biol Med. 2003 Dec;136(6):585-7.
  4. Provalova NV, Skurikhin EG, Pershina OV. Mechanisms underling the effects of adaptogens on erithropoiesis during paradoxical sleep deprivation. Bulletin Experimental Biology Medicine 2002 May; 133(5) :428-32.
  5. Lishmanov IuB, Trifonova ZhV, Tsibin AN, Maslova LV, Dement’eva LA. Plasma beta-endorphin and stress hormones in stress and adaptation. Biull Eksp Biol Med. 1987 Apr;103(4):422-4.