For as long as humans have needed to concentrate and get real work done, they’ve used different kinds of stimulants and mental performance enhancers. Most of the time these take the form of things you eat or drink; coffee is a great example. But the issue with these kinds of brain boosters is that they wear off relatively quickly and they usually come with a host of side effects, like jitteriness.
The development of tools or devices that can directly stimulate the electrical activity in your brain has opened new doors when it comes to studying aids or performance enhancers. A more recent device type is the electrical headset, which is worn like a regular cloth headband, but which provides your brain with electrical stimulation that enhances thought speed, focus, and even energy level.
The LIFTiD tDCS Headset is one of those devices. It claims to be able to enhance your ability to focus on studying or physical activities, providing as many of the benefits of coffee without making you crash or have jitters later. It even has some research papers to back up its effects. We took the time to review this headset and see if it’s really worth your time or determine if it’s a gimmick. Let’s dive in.
Purpose and Performance
The LIFTiD is designed to help boost performance for just about every activity, from your job to your hobby to arts and crafts. It can even be used by athletes who want to hone their skills and concentration.
It’s best thought of as an alternative to more traditional chemical stimulants like sugar or caffeine. You only need to use it about once per day for 20 minutes to receive the same boosting enhancements because of neurological effects and science-backed results.
It utilizes transcranial direct-current stimulation, or tDCS. In a nutshell, it supplies a low-level electrical current through two electrodes positioned on either side of your forehead. These target specific areas of your brain to improve transmission and brain response time, as well as increasing blood flow and enhancing neurotransmitter release and activation.
Currently, the technology that powers the LIFTiD is supported by over 4000 tDCS papers. Many imagine the LIFTiD to be a total lifestyle transformer, but it’s more in the realm of pleasing music or a quick 4-hour energy drink. It’s an assistant, not a cheat for focus and productivity.
After a 20-minute session, LIFTiD users can expect to see increased productivity or concentration for anywhere between an additional five minutes to 90 minutes depending on the user in question. It’s tricky to nail down exactly how long you’ll be able to enjoy the positive side effects because everyone’s mind is different.
In general, users experience an additional half-hour of better concentration and energy, at least with this band.
Design and Charging
Of course, the LIFTiD provides all of its benefits in a totally silent manner. There won’t be any annoying buzzing from the electrodes as you try to concentrate on your paper or activity.
The LIFTiD is also fairly lightweight at 70 g. This is important because many people find that brain-boosting headbands can become irritating for their necks or head. While the 20-minute recommended session isn’t that long by itself, you’re really insulated from neck aches because of the low weight of the band.
The LIFTiD uses a long-lasting lithium-ion battery integrated into the front of the headband. This can be recharged with the micro USB charging cable included with the purchase, although you can use any micro USB cable you have lying around for the same purpose. Once the battery is empty, it normally only takes about an hour, and a full battery provides enough juice for a few sessions of transmitting.
Aesthetically, the LIFTiD is a pretty good deal, although it doesn’t really avoid the clunkiness that most other brain-boosting headsets suffer from to this day. It’s likely that no one will ever be able to come up with a truly stylish performance-enhancing headband unless it gets much smaller.
Still, compared to other headsets of its kind, the LIFTiD is fairly sleek and high-tech looking. The silver finish for the electrode band is futuristic without looking silly, and the rest of the headset is black and not that noticeable. It’s not nearly as noticeable as something like a gaming headset, so you won’t need to feel embarrassed if you have to answer the door in the middle of a session.
Preparation and Inclusions
It takes a little while to set up upon unboxing the LIFTiD. Thankfully, it comes with a handy manual that explains how everything works and what you need to do to boost neurotransmitter activation. Once you’ve actually set the device up, you can adjust the strap that goes around the back of your head. This is made with nylon and cloth, so it’s fairly comfortable, although it can get a little tight if you’re not careful.
The LIFTiD is equipped with two pads on either side of the main band. The pads need to be wetted with a little moisture that you can provide from anywhere. However, the water needs to be salted to a specific proportion.
Once you’ve initially set up the LIFTiD, the usually only takes 1 to 2 minutes to prepare the headband for another session. This is both because of general familiarity and, hopefully, because you prepared a larger amount of saline solution during your first setup.
One advantage of the LIFTiD is that it doesn’t make any noise and is easy to forget about entirely. Because the pads are pretty comfortable and the headset can be adjusted, you shouldn’t be constantly focusing on the LIFTiD resting on your forehead and instead can focus on your task.
The kit comes with a measuring spoon for adding the correct amount of table salt, as well as a saline bottle you can use to make the solution beforehand, so you don’t have to remeasure salt every time you want to use the LIFTiD.
The kit also comes with additional sponges, which is a nice bonus. The sponges are reusable, so you won’t need to purchase lots of extra ones over the lifespan of the LIFTiD. There’s also an included mirror in the kit, which will let you center the LIFTiD properly and make sure that everything is secure even if you’re on the go or somewhere other than your bathroom. Finally, the kit comes with a storage bag for all of the above components, making it easy to take the LIFTiD with you on a business trip or a vacation.
Once the pads of the headset are wetted with the proper amount of saline solution, they’ll provide a pathway for a consistent 1.2 mA current. This current is passed straight into your brain. Once you’ve begun the session, you only need to keep it on your head for about 20 minutes to receive the full beneficial effects.
This is a nice timeframe because it’s not too long for most daily recreational periods, but it’s not so sure that you can also perform an activity while letting the LIFTiD do its work. Because it can be fitted to your head, you’ll be able to do pretty much any recreational thing you want while the LIFTiD is working.
This is where the actual benefits come in. You should immediately start to do any activity you want to benefit from your increased focus and neurotransmitter activity. Try something small at first like reading a book or doing some homework and see if you can tell if things are different.
You can then progress even more complicated or active pursuits, like composing music or playing video games. This won’t necessarily make you a genius in whatever aspect you pursue (of course), but it should result in a higher alertness level and a greater attention span. In a way, it’s a great way to make it easier to enter a state of flow or high concentration.
Overall, we’re confident that the LIFTiD tDCS Headset does have measurable positive effects, although they’re not enough to directly change your life. It does exactly what it’s designed to do quite well: provide you with passive boosts your energy level and concentration via electrical stimulation. It’s very easy to use and fairly comfortable, especially since you don’t need to keep it on your head for longer than 20 minutes.
It does have a bit of a quirky setup, but once you handle that hurdle there isn’t much else negative we can say. Overall, it will probably be most useful to students or hobbyists who want to replace their caffeine have it with something less physiologically strenuous. Let us know you think when you try it for yourself!