Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)
Since the 1940s, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been effectively used as a neuromodulating device to help improve a myriad of medical conditions including depression, seizures, obesity, anorexia, stroke, aphasia, developmental retardation, and language acquisition. Neuromodulation means changing the neural plasticity of the brain with either magnetic or electric stimulation. We have chosen to use TDCS because of its versatility and portability. This device is a small battery powered device approved by the FDA in 2004 for iontophoresis, now FDA cleared for language studies and investigations related to cognitive functioning in children and adults, which delivers a very weak electric current to the brain. In the last ten years, Dr. Walter Paulus and others have thoroughly investigated the use of tDCS and have produced over 100 articles.
These studies have demonstrated and established the safety parameters of tDCS. These guidelines have been tried and tested and have shown that this form of neuromodulation has effectively enhanced cortical excitability and improved memory for thousands of people with no significant side effects. Non-significant side effects have included: a mild tingling and/or itching sensation under the electrode, fatigue after treatment, headache, and insomnia; all of which have disappeared after 72 hours.
We feel that tDCS is a useful therapeutic intervention particularly for children that have autism and adults who have aphasia with language difficulties. To date, there have been no effective treatment modalities to restore language in minimally verbal children. In combination with functional MRI investigational research being completed at our facility in New York City (Columbia University Program for Imaging and Cognitive Sciences (Schneider, H, 2010)),which demonstrated which brain areas and connections do not function adequately for language, we feel that neuromodulation of these dysfunctional language brain areas will be very successful in combating these language deficits. We also feel that neuromodulation together with new behavioral/linguistic interventions we have developed will benefit thousands of children who suffer from autism.