San Francisco Giants are zapping their brains to improve performance

What he’s basically saying is that even if the effect is so small that it can’t possibly be verified to exist, the Giants should keep paying him anyway. Well at least someone is good at covering all their bases.


Two hundredths of a second is about a 64th note at 188 beats per minute. Maybe that’s noticeable to Art Tatum, but not really to the rest of us.

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Tell that to Robert Pirsig (oops, too late, or is it too soon?)

I’m out of the office today, but if you really want it, I can send you some research next week (or you could search PubMed)

“You’ve got to have a gimmick if your band sucks.”
– Gary Giddens

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I doubt this works!

Ten minutes of (decidedly unsystematic) digging on PubMed lead to potentially promising but yet inconclusive research.

“Research has only recently started to investigate the effect of tDCS on physical performance and, given the prominent role of the motor and premotor brain regions in the development of supraspinal fatigue, most studies have attempted to target these areas. To date, there are a limited number of studies, showing inconsistent results and often with flawed methodological design. Nevertheless, the balance of evidence suggests that tDCS might have a positive effect on exercise capacity.”

It’s good that you doubt it. I have several colleagues who use it, reportedly very successfully, and there is research to back them up. The criticisms of this research usually focus on sample size and methodology. RCT’s (random controlled trials) are touted as the “gold standard” but are sometimes unfeasible, very expensive, and actually not always necessary. Techniques like this is highly discouraged by the big pharmaceutical companies. After all, they have trillions of dollars riding on the continued use of their products. They also don’t invest in them because they work after a limited number of applications and aren’t required for the rest of your life, like drugs.

TLDR: most of the data on this is so bad that it barely qualifies as research. Lots of marketing hype, very little science.

Although not entirely debunked, there is not yet any convincing evidence as to efficacy. But the mechanism isn’t totally implausible, and there remains a possibility that it might provide some minor therapeutic benefit.

It’s the sort of thing that is worth continuing to research, particularly in light of the high and increasing demand for geriatric medicine. It isn’t the sort of thing that is ethically justifiable to sell to the public as an effective therapy at this time.


I can’t really comment on whether or not tDCS works. It would take a more time digging around than I am actually willing to invest. I agree that there are a ton of reasons to be critical of the pharmaceutical industry. It is every bit as bad as its criticisms suggest. And like you said RCT’s are often expensive and not really appropriate, however, for treatments they remain the gold standard and I can’t imagine how it would be unfeasible to do a study on tDCS that involved more than 18 people. I am all for criticizing big pharma but I am interested in do that by upholding rigorous scientific standards. There are good examples of strong criticisms coming from researchers (Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Pharma being one) and good projects to uphold standards and deal with the biases that money creates in research, such as

“pharma being shit does not mean magic beans cure cancer.”


I’m with you in wanting solid scientific standards. The main impediment for more experimental evidence is probably money. It takes a lot of money, a lot of time, and a large number of people to do a proper study. Add to that the fact that the number of studies that have already been done never seems to be enough. It’s rather discouraging. What happens is that clinicians simply use it, with an abundance of caution, and make up their own minds. I haven’t heard of any serious side effects (at least when used clinically). If there were, you can be sure the ax would fall very quickly. On the other hand, successes are always minimized and called “anecdotal.”

That’s almost as bad as being called “magic beans.”

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WOW! TLDR, yet your totally convinced.

I’m not really familiar with the site you posted, but I noticed immediately that there is only 1 study listed that is less than a year old. You might want to check a more reputable site:

There are 3262 studies listed, so it’s probably too long too. I wonder why the National Institutes of Health would list all these studies if the data is [quote=“Wanderfound, post:30, topic:100900”]
so bad that it barely qualifies as research

[quote=“Jimi, post:33, topic:100900, full:true”]
WOW! TLDR, yet your totally convinced.

I’m not really familiar with the site you posted, but I noticed immediately that there is only 1 study listed that is less than a year old. You might want to check a more reputable site:

There are 3262 studies listed, so it’s probably too long too. I wonder why the National Institutes of Health would list all these studies

Because the NIH database lists all published studies in the journals they cover, regardless of quality, while Cochrane publishes meta-reviews.

Obviously, you have no idea who Cochrane are.

Cochrane is a collaborative non-profit that organises systematic reviews of medical research. They’re generally recognised within the medical community as the best source for evidence based medicine.


It was either the team or the fans. The team was found to be financially viable.

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Yes, I said I’m not familiar with the site. Apparently, they have dismissed a lot of the research, since there is only 1 study cited from the past year.

Obviously, you have no idea what tDCS is, yet you’re willing to dismiss thousands of research studies without ever even having read any of them (yeah, I know, TLDR).

I work in Neuroscience and read a minimum of 3 research papers every day (although, admittedly, most are not about tDCS).

Cochrane are reputable. It’s what my general practitioner reads as he doesn’t have the time to see all his patients, read every medical research paper and have a family life.

If you have an issue with them not covering recent tDCS papers then contact them, but don’t claim they aren’t reputable based on that one subject.

Please excuse my ill conceived use of the word reputable. I really have no
issue with Cochrane. I’m sure they serve a need. I certainly don’t have
time to start a crusade to get them to review more papers on this
modality. I don’t even use it myself. I just have colleagues who do use
My concern is that a promising new technology is being marginalized
unfairly. I have heard of several cases where there have been a very
sizable effect, and there is a body of science to back it up.
Unfortunately, there are some parties who are opposed to this and other
promising new techniques for various reasons (the threat of competition,
turf battles, unwanted insurance payouts, etc.). This deprives patients of
effective treatments and stifles innovation.

That was Buzsáki’s observation (using a cadaver’s head) – little of the stimulation reaches the brain. It could be that even a tiny current still changes the firing thresholds of neurons enough to make a difference, or it could be that tDCS is an elaborately theatrical placebo.

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Doing it properly: