Montages

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Welcome! This visual guide was built to help you setup tDCS and tACS montages, and learn about the research that supports them. This resource is only intended for educational purposes.

tDCS montages. tDCS montages are shown with red and black electrodes. The red electrode connects to the red pin and the black electrode to the black pin. The colors must match for the montage to be correct.

tACS montages. tACS montages are shown with green electrodes. The red and black pins can connect to either electrode. Color matching doesn’t matter here.

Off-Head Electrode. Some montages leave one electrode off the head. This off-head electrode is meant to be neutral and not modify brain activity. This electrode can be placed near the deltoid (shoulder region) or neck. A better connection is achieved when the off- and on-head electrodes are on the same side.

Learn More. Click the grey tab below each montage picture to reveal a description of the montage and links to research articles.

Presets

Smile

tDCS, F3+ / Fp2−, 1−4 mA, 20 min, daily

Smile Preset. This is a highly researched tDCS montage for mood improvement. The hypothesis is that brain activity in the left front brain area called the DLPFC (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) is underactive in people that are depressed. This montage uses the red electrode to enhance brain activity in the left DLPFC. The black electrode goes over the right eye.

*Nitsche 2009, Kalu 2012, Palm 2016.

Caffeine

tDCS, F3+ / deltoid−, 1−4 mA, 20 min, daily as needed

Caffeine Preset. This tDCS montage reduces fatigue and sleepiness, potentially more than a dose of caffeine. Activity in the front left brain area, called the DLPFC (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex), is low in people that are tired and sleepy. The red electrode goes over the left DLPFC, and the black electrode is placed off the head to not affect the positive current.

*McIntire 2017.

Focus

tDCS, F4+ / F3−, 1−4 mA, 20 min, daily over 4 weeks

Focus Preset. This tDCS montage aims to improve focus. Adults with attention issues show reduced activity in the right front brain area called the DLPFC (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex). The red electrode goes over the right DLPFC to enhance brain activity, and the black electrode goes over the left DLPFC. Effects are expected to build over time.

*Teixeira et al 2022

Positive

tACS, F3 / F4, 10 Hz, 1−2 mA, 20 min, daily

Positive Preset. This is a newer tACS montage used to improve mood. The hypothesis is that alpha (10Hz) rhythm imbalances between the left and right front brain area called the DLPFC (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) promote anxiety and sadness. The idea is to restore alpha rhythm synchrony by placing electrodes over the left and right upper forehead.

*Alexander et al 2019, Riddle et al 2020.

Snooze

tACS, FT7 / FT8, 4−10 Hz, 0.6−1 mA, 20 min, daily as needed

Snooze Preset. This tACS montage was used to induce drowsiness before sleep. The first stages of sleep are characterized by theta (4-10Hz) rhythms, predominately in hippocampus, the memory hub in our brains. Applying theta rhythms over the left and right temples, near the hippocampus, 15-30 minutes before bedtime may help increase drowsiness.

*D’Atri et al 2019.

Awake

tACS, Fp1 / F4, 10 Hz, 1−1.5 mA, 20 min, daily as needed

Awake Preset. This tACS montage promotes alertness and vigilance. The brain settles into slow (<5Hz) rhythms when drowsy, but when alert and focused, faster alpha (10Hz) rhythms are observed in the right frontal brain called the DLPFC (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex). Applying alpha rhythms to right upper forehead helps restore vigilance.

*Martínez-Pérez et al 2022.

More Montages

Fast Learning (DARPA)

tDCS, F10+ / deltoid−, 1−4 mA, 30 min, daily as needed

DARPA Montage. Medical imaging shows that the right lower brain is activated when detecting threats and important objects. Therefore, placing a red / positive electrode over this brain area during tDCS is thought to enhance focus and learning. 

*Clark et al 2012, Parasuraman and McKinley 2014.

Savant

tDCS, T8+ / deltoid−, 1−4 mA, 20 min, daily as needed

Savant Montage. Brain recordings show that the right anterior part of our temporal lobe lights up when people have an Aha! moment. This montage helps enhance this Aha!-like activity while learning by applying positive tDCS to the right temple.

*Salvi et al 2020.

Eureka

tACS, T7 / T8, 40 Hz, 1 mA, 2 min, daily as needed

Eureka Montage. Brain recordings show that the right anterior part of our temporal lobe lights up with bursts of gamma (40Hz) waves when people have an Aha! moment. Applying gamma tACS between the temples may inspire a Eureka! moment.

*Santarnecchi et al 2019.

Learning Math

tDCS, P4+ / P3−, 1−4 mA, 20 min, daily for 6 days

Learning Montage. The right brain is associated with mathematical ability. The specific math region is called the parietal lobe. This montage enhances the right parietal brain while calming the left side.

*Kadosh et al 2010, Bjekić et al 2019.

Problem Solving

tDCS, T4+ / T3−, 1−4 mA, 10−30 min, daily as needed

Insight Montage. Thinking outside the box often emerges when brain activity is irregular. A less excitable left side brain (near the temporal lobe) and more excitable right brain is associated with creativity. tDCS at the temples promotes this state.

*Chi and Snyder 2011, Chi and Snyder 2012.

Motor Learning

tDCS, C3+ / Fp2−, 1−4 mA, 10−20 min, daily as needed

Motor MontageMovement requires input from the motor command center in the brain, the motor cortex. Enhancing motor cortex activity helps increase reaction time and improve learned movements for physical activities and sports.

*Boggio et al 2006, Patel et al 2019, Yamaguchi et al 2020.

Word Recall

tDCS, F5+ / Fp2−, 1−4 mA, 20 min, daily for 5 days

Language MontageThe lower left front brain, known as the Broca area, is a critical brain center for speech production. Trouble speaking is associated with lower activity in this area, so enhancing activity in the Broca area may improve speech.

*Marangolo et al 2011, Spielmann et al 2016, Elsner et al 2019.

Reduce Anxiety 1

tDCS, F3+ / deltoid−, 1−4 mA, 25 min, daily

Calming Montage 1. Anxiety tends to lower brain activity in the left frontal brain region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Counterbalancing this “hypoactivity” in the left brain with positive tDCS may help reduce stressful emotions.

*Heeren et al 2017, Stein et al 2020.

Reduce Anxiety 2

tDCS, deltoid+ / F4−, 1−4 mA, 25 min, daily

Calming Montage 2. Anxiety tends to elevate brain activity in the right frontal brain region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Lowering this “hyperactivity” in the right brain with negative tDCS may help reduce stressful emotions.

*Shiozawa et al 2014, Movahed et al 2018, Stein et al 2020.

De-stress

tACS, Pz / neck, 10 Hz, 1−2 mA, 30 min, daily as needed

Calming Montage 3. Alpha waves are a prevalent brain rhythms in the awake brain. Meditation and mindfulness training enhance alpha in the posterior brain, promoting relaxation. This tACS montage promotes alpha waves to help reduce stress.

*Clancy et al 2018.

Long-Term Memory

tACS, AF3 / deltoid, 60 Hz, 1.6 mA, 20 min, daily for 4 days

Memory Recall Montage. Memory functions in the brain have frequency encodings. Gamma rhythms in the frontal left brain are linked to efficient storage of long-term memory. Gamma tACS near the DLPFC helps promote this memory function.

*Grover et al 2022.

Working Memory

tACS, CP5 / deltoid, 4 Hz, 1.6 mA, 20 min, daily for 4 days

Memory Use Montage. Memory functions in the brain have frequency encodings. Theta rhythms in the left lower parietal brain are linked to efficient use of working memory. Theta tACS near this region may help improve working memory function.

*Grover et al 2022.

Sleep

tACS, F3 / F4, 0.5−1.2 Hz, 2 mA, 30 min, daily as needed

Sleep Montage. The more time we spend in slow wave or “deep” sleep, the better our sleep quality. The brain falls in delta waves during deep sleep. Therefore, applying delta tACS during slow wave sleep may help improve sleep quality.

*Robinson et al 2018, Ketz et al 2018

Meditate

tACS, PO7 / PO8, 10 Hz, 0.75 mA, 30 min, daily as needed

Meditation Montage. Vivid imagination is a spontaneous process that comes alive during deep meditation. When we close our eyes, alpha rhythms emerge, and as we dive deeper into meditative states, gamma waves emerge too. Therefore, alpha tACS may be a way to help kick-start meditation and visualization.

*Di Bernardi Luft et al 2019.