About the study

The goal of this study is to examine how effective and well-tolerated a possible new treatment for individuals who injure themselves frequently will be.  We are studying a minimal-risk form of electrical brain stimulation called transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS.  In addition, we will perform a type of brain imaging to study how tDCS affects brain chemistry.  tDCS is administered using two small electrodes that are applied to the scalp. A low current is applied to the electrodes using a battery-operated device.

The study involves receiving 10 tDCS administrations over the course of two weeks.  Each tDCS session lasts 20 minutes. During the first tDCS session, we will perform a type of brain imaging called positron emission tomography, or PET scanning, to take pictures of a specific protein in the brain, to see how it is affected by tDCS.

You will also have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan during the study, which takes  a high resolution picture of your brain.

During tDCS procedures, you may experience a mild tingling sensation or irritation on your scalp; headaches are another possible side-effect. Side-effects from tDCS are most frequently described by participants as mild, and do not tend to continue after tDCS sessions are completed. We will explain all of the possible risks and benefits of participation in this research study to you in detail before you decide whether to participate.

You will receive $400 in compensation when you complete the brain scans and will be offered three months of medication-based treatment with a psychiatrist in our division.

Here is an example of the types of images that we will study using PET imaging:


More information about the science behind the study is listed on the Columbia University Medical Center website:


Contact us at:  suraman@nyspi.columbia.edu or at 646-774-7564.