Transcranial direct current stimulation for major depression: A general system for quantifying transcranial electrotherapy dosage

  • Marom Bikson
  • Peter Bulow
  • John W. Stiller
  • Abhishek Datta
  • Fortunato Battaglia
  • Sergei V. Karnup
  • Teodor T. Postolache

Opinion statement

There has been a recent resurgence of interest in therapeutic modalities using transcranial weak electrical stimulation through scalp electrodes, such as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), as a means of experimentally modifying and studying brain function and possibly treating psychiatric conditions. A range of electrotherapy paradigms have been investigated, but no consistent method has been indicated for reporting reproducible stimulation “dosage.” Anecdotal reports, case studies, and limited clinical trials with small numbers suggest that tDCS may be effective in treating some patients with depression, but methods for selecting the optimal stimulation parameters (“dosage”) are not clear, and there is no conclusive indication that tDCS is an effective treatment for depression. Larger, controlled studies are necessary to determine its safety and efficacy in a clinical setting.

If tDCS can be established as an effective treatment for depression, it would represent a particularly attractive electrotherapy option, as it is a relatively benign and affordable treatment modality. An accurate system for describing reproducible treatment parameters is essential so that further studies can yield evidence-based guidelines for the clinical use of transcranial current stimulation. Development of appropriate parameters requires a biophysical understanding of how electrotherapy affects brain function and should include different paradigms for different clinical applications. As with any dosage guidelines, such a system does not supersede physician judgment on safety.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marom Bikson
  • Peter Bulow
  • John W. Stiller
  • Abhishek Datta
  • Fortunato Battaglia
  • Sergei V. Karnup
  • Teodor T. Postolache
    • 1
  1. 1.Mood and Anxiety ProgramUniversity of Maryland School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

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