What is PlatoWork?
PlatoWork is both a neurostimulation device and a crowdscience project, aiming to unlock the potential of brain stimulation technology through engaging people in large scale distributed scientific testing – or crowdscience as we like to call it.
The system consists of a physical headset with electrodes and a distribution unit. The headset is controlled wirelessly from a smartphone app. The smartphone app tracks the individual usage and will, over time, use the collected data to improve the user experience through the crowdscience.
Will PlatoWork be available for personal use?
Yes indeed! While being a research-based product, the purpose of PlatoWork is to make safe, side-effect free and simple-to-use cognitive enhancement technology available to anyone.
What can PlatoWork help me with?
PlatoScience aims to make the user better at solving complex, ‘open ended’ or ‘creative’ problems, during single sessions but also over time based on continuous use of the product. The stimulation used in PlatoWork is based upon our previous research on creative problem solving in combination with other studies on related topics such as memory improvement and concentration.
Since the start of the 21st century there has been an increased interest in studying the brain areas involved in creative thinking and problem solving, within academic research fields such as neuropsychology, neurology and neurobiology. The purpose of this pursuit has been to identify which brain areas are involved in successful creative processes, and which brain areas are limiting the same processes. In these studies, it is normal to distinguish between two radically different types of cognitive activity in the creative process: 1) divergent thinking, where new alternatives are produced, and 2) convergent thinking, where newly produced alternatives are assessed and selected. It is acknowledged that a successful problem solving process requires both these types of thinking, at different stages in the process. Based on a vast number of laboratory studies of brain activity in both divergent and convergent thinking, certain brain areas have been identified as being either beneficial, or unproductive, for each of the two cognitive modes (divergent/convergent). Following these studies researchers have recently started to experiment with activating or deactivating these areas to measure the effect on creativity and problem solving. The key finding is that it is possible to improve aspects of either divergent or convergent processes by non-invasive transcranial stimulation.
When and where can I buy PlatoWork?
At PlatoScience we want to engage the users in developing the product, so we are therefore selling small batches of the current version of PlatoWork on an ongoing basis, to get feedback on the product from the early adopters. By purchasing one of the first PlatoWork devices you are the first to try our newest model, and will be invited to take part in the product development process of future versions.
The current batch is aimed at our friends and followers, but if you are reading this you are welcome to visit our store and acquire one.
Is PlatoWork safe to use?
Yes, it is completely safe. With professional and controlled TES devices such as PlatoWork it is technically impossible to induce any damage to the brain. In the PlatoScience team we use it all the time, both in meetings and for individual work, and our prototypes have been tested on 100+ healthy subjects in hundreds of sessions with no reported safety issues. Furthermore, there are numerous scientific studies using various versions of TES for research purposes, and a number of studies have specifically verified that the type of low-intensity transcranial stimulation used in PlatoWork is completely safe for healthy humans (Poreisz, Boros, Antal, & Paulus, 2007). Outside of the world of scientific research versions of neurostimulation are already in use in the american army, pilot training, for professional athletes and others.
Are there any side effects from using PlatoWork?
As with non-invasive neurostimulation in general, there are no known severe side-effects with PlatoWork. With all the sessions testing the current versions, and previous development steps of PlatoWork, the only side-effects we have experienced are <10 instances of scratching and temporary skin irritation under the electrodes, disappearing 5-15 minutes after the end of the session. These are believed to be due to the saline solution used to moisten the electrodes in early prototypes. The current version has an improved saline composition that has so far not resulted in any recorded skin irritations. In three early tests the users reported a slight headache appearing following the session, but it is not possible to assess whether the headache was induced by the stimulation. One of the users had three consecutive sessions and reported no other instances of headache. A total of four users have reported mild sleepiness after using the Focus mode, and several users report a state of light mood and increased laughter following the Create mode. Some of our test users have reported a sensation of metallic taste in the mouth, which is also known from other studies of neurostimulation.
What are the safety features for PlatoWork?
Even though TES is considered a completely safe form of brain stimulation, there are some crucial safety measures that must be taken into account in professional devices like PlatoWork. The first type of safety measurements are in the hardware, built into the physical product itself, to ensure that the product can only deliver the desired amount of electricity and to the correct electrodes. In the freely available PlatoWork versions there are three hardware safety features: 1) The power available in the battery and the maximum ‘discharge rate’ puts a physical barrier for the maximum amount of electricity delivered, 2) the electronics in the control unit are built with a physical maximum load just above the amount needed for stimuli, and 3) it is physically barriers for connecting the device to any other power source during stimulation. As such, it is technically impossible for the product to deliver more electricity than the amount proven to be safe for human subjects.
The second level of safety measures is built into the firmware and software controlling the electronics. These software safety features ensure that the product cannot be used in other ways than what the current research prescribes. Thus, the software limitations will ensure that the product can not be used more than these prescribed boundaries.
Are devices like PlatoWork regulated?
Currently there are no general legal regulations or limitations for non-medical consumer brain stimulation products like PlatoWork. A 2015 draft guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA – the American legal body responsible for regulation on drugs and medical devices) on wellness-products, including devices claiming to improve “concentration” and “problem solving”, indicates that the FDA does not intend to enforce regulations for tDCS devices marketed for wellness. If PlatoWork was a medical device and thus subject to regulations from organizations such as the FDA, a briefing document prepared in 2012 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that “there is no regulation for therapeutic tDCS”.
Is PlatoWork complicated to use?
The key purpose for PlatoWork is making non-invasive brain stimulation available for anyone through simple to use plug’n’play devices that lower the entry barriers for new users. The product is designed to be usable by anyone, with no loose wires or unknown connectors, and a smartphone app interface allowing direct control of the device.
Will people be able to “hack” my brain with PlatoWork?
No. The PlatoWork system uses industry standard encryption to keep all data transfers safe and private. And, even if someone was able to take over the system, the hardware limitations built into the system would still make it impossible to enforce any harm on the user. Finally, as PlatoWork has currently no electrodes capable of reading brain signals it is not possible to read the brain signals of the user.