Some science behind the scenes


Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES) is a psychiatric treatment that applies a small, pulsed electric current across a patient's head. Low intensity and pulsed.

It has been used to help treat  anxiety, depression, insomnia and stress.  It is also known by the names of electrosleep therapy; Cranial-Electro Stimulation, and Transcranial Electrotherapy.  In 1972, a specific form of CES was developed by Dr. Margaret Patterson, providing small pulses of electric current across the head to ameliorate the effects of acute and chronic withdrawal from addictive substances. She named her treatment "NeuroElectric Therapy (NET)".

In the United States, CES technology is classified by the Food and Drug Administration as Class III medical devices and must be dispensed by or on the order of a licensed healthcare practitioners, i.e. a physician, psychiatrist or nurse practitioner; psychologists, physician assistants, and occupational therapists who have an appropriate electrotherapy license may prescribe CES, dependent upon state regulations.

CES is non intrusive.  Electrodes are simply attached to the ear lobes or placed at various positions on the ear.    Do not take the diagrams below as anatomically exact, but as indicators to show the approximate effects of the positioning used.   As we can see from the diagram top left, this may put the placement near enough to stimulate the amygdala, the hippocampus, the reticular formation plus a number of other organs – depending of course on the frequency used and the depth of penetration of the signals.



  • Dr. Margaret A. Patterson. Effects of Neuro-Electric Therapy (N.E.T.) In Drug Addiction: Interim Report. Bull Narc. 1976 Oct-Dec;28(4):55-62. PubMed PMID: 1087892.
  • Patterson MA. Electrotherapy: addictions and neuroelectric therapy. Nurs Times. 1979 Nov 29;75(48):2080-3. PubMed PMID: 316129.
  • Weiss, Marc F. The treatment of insomnia through use of electrosleep: an EEG study. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 157(2):108 120, 1973
  • Matteson M et al. An exploratory investigation of CES as an employee stress management technique. Journal of Health and Human Resource Administration. 9:93 109, 1986
  • Smith R et al. Electrosleep in the management of alcoholism. Biological Psychiatry. 10(6):675 680, 1975
  • Gilula MF, Kirsch DL. (2005). Cranial electrotherapy stimulation review: a safer alternative to psychopharmaceuticals in the treatment of depression. Journal of Neurotherapy, 9(2), 63-77.
  • Sparing & Mottaghy (2008). Noninvasive brain stimulation with transcranial magnetic or direct current stimulation - From insights into human memory to therapy of its dysfunction. Methods, 44: 329-337.
  • Nitsche, M. A. & W. Paulus, W. (2000). Excitability changes induced in the human motor cortex by weak transcranial direct current stimulation. Journal of Physiology, 527 (3): 633-639.
  • Michael A. Nitsche, David Liebetanz, Nicolas Lang, Andrea Antal, Frithjof Tergau, Walter Paulus (2003). Safety criteria for transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in humans. Clinical Neurophysiology 114:2220–2222.
  • Baker, J., Rorden, C., & Fridriksson, J., (2010).Using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to treat strokepatients with aphasia. Stroke, 41(6): 1229–1236.
  •  Berryhill, M. E., Wencil, E. B., Coslett, H. B., & Olsona, I. R. (2010). A selective working memory impairment after transcranial direct current stimulation to the right parietal lobe. Neuroscience Letters 479: 312–316.


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