Posted on Sep 18, 2019, 12 p.m.
If you are thinking about jumping onto the worrisome trend of at home DIY brain stimulation you may want to think twice about it as scientists and experts are sounding the alarm and sending out a very serious warning.
Some studies have shown that brain stimulation may hold promise for some people with depression which has led some people to try at home DIY brain stimulation devices. While transcranial direct current stimulation devices can be made using simple parts and tools, that still doesn’t make it safe to use as these aren’t the same devices or methods used in studies.
Some people think making their own device to use is an option to avoid the serious and potential side effects of taking antidepressants. These devices are made in hopes of alleviating depression, anxiety, ADD, and sometimes people do it in attempts to boost their cognitive functions such as memory and creativity.
Brain stimulation may be more palatable than electroshock therapy, but this still doesn’t mean that it is safe, especially when done using untested homemade devices by people without proper training. There are risks and countless ways that sending electrical currents into the brain without a proper tested device and trained medical supervision could go very wrong.
Annals of Neurology published an open letter from neuroscientists from the University of Pennsylvania and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical center that discusses and highlights some of the very real and serious risks associated with the practice of at home DIY brain stimulation.
Even experts in brain stimulation still don’t have a full understanding yet of what mild currents used in this treatment could do to the brain as a whole over time. At home DIY users are using frequencies and durations that haven’t been tested, some of whom are doing it daily for months on end because they mistakenly think that doing it for longer can have better results but experts are warning that this can actually have the opposite effect.
Burns are fairly common, and the open letter brings to attention the fact that even under trained medical supervision using tested equipment the outcomes of tDCS are unpredictable, and that it can even make brain functioning worse in certain cases.
Brain stimulation is hard to control even under tested and trained medical settings, it often extends past the areas under the electrodes into areas that are not being targeted, and scientists are not exactly sure how brain stimulation in one area will affect the brain networks connected to it or as a whole.
What the patient does before and during treatment is also important, such as sleeping, reading, or solving puzzles as it could alter the outcome of treatment. Other factors such as age, medications being used, head anatomy differences, gender, and things like being left or right handed can all affect the outcome of treatment.
If you care about your health, the at home DIY brain stimulation should be taken off the table as an option for your own safety. If you want to alleviate some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety without resorting to medications or boost creativity, why not try other approaches that don’t get the attention they deserve such as nutrition and exercise.
While nutrition and exercise may not sound like they will be as transformative they are surprisingly powerful legitimate options. Several studies have linked a diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, olive oil, and antioxidants with a lower risk of depression, while those with a lot of refined grains, processed meats, and little produce with are associated with a significantly higher risk. Exercise has been shown in several studies to release feel good endorphins in the body that interact with receptors in the brain which triggers a positive feeling, and fight stress.
Nutrition and exercise interventions can do a lot for mental health and they will not burn you out, actually burn your head, or negatively impact your brain in the long run like the practice of at home DIY brain stimulation will or raise your risk of suicide like some antidepressants. The main “side effect” of nutrition and exercise is better overall physical and mental health, which is an acceptable risk that is actually worth taking.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.