January 8, 2016
Prof. Natan Gadoth
The Israeli Society for Clinical Neurophysiology
I am writing on behalf of the Executive Committee (ExCo) of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology (IFCN). I want to draw your attention to an important statement that we have just posted on our website.
There is an explosion of interest in the use of non-invasive transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) of the central nervous system. Current research indicates that there is great potential for treatment of disease, but there is also evidence of enhancement of cognitive function of normal individuals. Devices for tES are relatively cheap and available over the counter and can even be simply made at home. Because of the possibility of enhancement, there is now expanding do-it-yourself (DIY) use. Of course, there is substantial possibility of harm when used outside of appropriate medical supervision. Indeed, there is considerably more to learn about when tES will produce positive or negative effects, and research is on-going.
There was a recent Workshop at the National Academy of Medicine (USA) entitled, Non-Invasive Neuromodulation of the Central Nervous System, and this has recently been published. At the workshop, concerns were raised about the unregulated DIY use of tES devices, but it was also recognized that there is no regulatory agency that would have control of this use. Hence it was suggested that it would be the responsibility of professional organizations and researchers to inform the public of possible dangers.
The IFCN is the international society for all national societies of clinical neurophysiology. Our goal is to bring the best medical practices to patients as relates to the practice of all aspects of clinical neurophysiology. As tES is an electrophysiological device, we have both special expertise and special responsibility to bring the possible dangers of DIY use to public attention. This has led us to develop and post the statement on our website. We hope that your society will also promulgate this statement of warning, for example, by notifying your members and, perhaps, by pointing to the link to our website.
We hope that this informational campaign will be valuable and prevent injury. The IFCN will be sponsoring an extensive workshop on tES safety in September 2016, and we anticipate producing a more detailed document at that time. We have previously published guidelines for the safe use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and we believe that such guidelines have been influential in the international medical community for safety with TMS. Guidelines for tES will perhaps be even more important given the DIY use.
So we urge your action on this important topic. If you have any question, of course, please contact us.
Mark Hallett, MD
President, IFCN, on behalf of the ExCo