Transcranial electrical stimulation

What is transcranial electrical stimulation?

Transcranial electrical stimulation is a procedure that uses low intensity electrical currents to stimulate certain parts of the brain. As indicated in the name, the procedure is transcranial, that is to say, the current is applied from the external part of the skull, without being an invasive technique that requires opening the skull to perform the stimulation. Although it is still under investigation, transcranial electrical stimulation appears to be a safe and very promising treatment.

Why is the technique performed?

Transcranial electrical stimulation is a non-invasive experimental procedure that has been used to improve neuronal activity in some patients and with very good results in the treatment of chronic pain and depression.

Through the placement of electrodes, low intensity electric current is applied, totally imperceptible to the patient. Stimulation has been used in a wide variety of chronic pain problems, such as fibromyalgia, headaches, back pain, neuralgia…) as well as in patients with stroke, depression….

It has been shown to be very useful in addressing and controlling for example neuropathic pain, migraine, trigeminal neuralgia… Stimulation improves higher cognitive function, such as attention, memory, working capacity…

Transcranial electrical stimulation

What is transcranial electrical stimulation?

The technique of transcranial electrical stimulation works by placing a pair of electrodes on the skull. Once they have been implanted and ensured that everything is correctly prepared, a very weak electric current is applied to the brain for a few minutes.

Thanks to the use of these currents, an electric field is generated that can regulate and modulate the activity of the neurons.

The activation or not of the neurons varies according to their depolarization, an electrical process that can be modified. In turn, it should be noted that depending on the type of current used, different effects will be achieved.

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Thus, it is known that through transcranial electrical stimulation with the application of direct current, neurons alter their discharge rate. The changes can last from minutes to hours once the stimulation has been performed, depending on its parameters. In this way, through stimulation, the performance of individuals in various cognitive tasks and forms can be changed.

Another way to stimulate is by using alternating current at random frequencies, especially in the motor cortex, once it has been exposed for ten minutes to this current, it becomes more active. In this way, the neurons that have been subjected to this current will respond better to stimulation and motor tasks.

The duration of the treatment is about ten sessions, with five sessions per week for two consecutive weeks. The duration of the sessions ranges from twenty to thirty minutes.

Preparation for transcranial electrical stimulation

No special preparation is required in order to undergo stimulation. In this case, once the patient goes to the specialist’s office, he/she will place a pair of electrodes, like wet sponges with physiological saline in the desired places of the skull: one in the frontal area on the right and a second electrode in the parietal area on the left. The electrodes are held in place with a tape to prevent movement.

Care after the procedure

No special care is needed after the stimulation is performed. In fact, the only side effect that may be felt during stimulation is a slight tingling in the area where the shock is applied.