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At PlatoScience we use a neurostimulation technology called tDCS (transcranial Direct Current Stimulation); a scientific method for painless brain stimulation which uses a micro dosage of electrical current to stimulate specific parts of the brain.
The main benefit of this method is, that it is non-invasive and that it cannot cause any unwanted activity in the brain, but only support the naturally occurring activity.
tDCS is a scientific method, originally developed for medical purposes and more recently applied for non-medical objectives as well. The basics of the method stem from the 1960’s, but over the last 10-15 years the amount of scientific research into tDCS has expanded.
Independent studies using brain scanning techniques have shown no harmful neurological changes in healthy subjects due to repeated use of tDCS (see i.a. Iyezr et al., 2005; Nitsche, Niehaus et al., 2004, Nitsche & Paulus, 2001).
While more studies show beneficial results when applying tDCS in the treatment of a range of medical disorders, PlatoWork is a consumer device not approved for medical treatment.
PlatoScience is currently developing new products for medical treatment, but if you suffer from any mental condition, we do not recommend the use of PlatoWork without consulting your doctor.
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.
Yes, it is completely safe. With professional and controlled tDCS 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 tDCS 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.
There are no known severe side-effects connected to the use of PlatoWork.
Neurostimulation with tDCS has been used within academia for decades and PlatoWork is a safe and CE-approved consumer device. To this date, there has been no reports of serious side effects or irreversible injuries across more than 33.200 sessions (Bikson et al., 2016).
Some individuals do report mild, but transient side effects such as skin irritations beneath the electrodes, cognitive discomfort (e.g. moderate fatigue, headache and in rare cases nausea) and a metallic taste in the mouth.
Even though tDCS 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.
3) There are physical 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 cannot be used beyond these prescribed boundaries.
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 of 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”.
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 does not have electrodes capable of reading brain signals, it is not possible to read the brain signals of the user.
Professional tDCS devices like PlatoWork are designed specifically to make incorrect use impossible.
If tDCS devices are used incorrectly, some users have reported non-serious side effects like visual sensations and mild skin burns. The visual sensations are experienced as brief flashes in the sight and are related to switching the current on and off at full strength, or sudden detachment of the electrodes. A recent scientific study on the skin burns related to use of tDCS found it to be easily avoidable by deploying the technology correctly (Loo et al, 2011).
The saltwater solution included in your PlatoWork kit is very simple to refill using normal table salt.
- Cover the bottom of the bottle with a very thin layer of normal table salt (less than 0,5 grams). The top of the rounded bottom should stick out.
- Fill the bottle with lukewarm water and shake to mix.
Instructions can also be found i the PlatoWork app under “Maintenance”
The sponges can be rinsed easily with tap water and reused over and over. If all your sponges are worn out, sent us an email and we will send you a fresh set.
PlatoWork is controlled by a Bluetooth connection. Simply open the PlatoWork app on your smartphone and remember to have bluetooth turned on. The app will automatically find your phone, so no further change of settings is needed
If you still have trouble achieving the connection, try charging your phone and headset, and restart both before trying the above steps again.
For neurostimulation to work the electrodes need to have good contact to the head. Good contact is ensured by a combination of 1. Wet sponges, 2. Pressure, and 3. Sponge surface touching the head. When starting a session, the headset will test if the relevant electrodes have a sufficient contact, and ask you to improve contact if they don’t.
If asked to adjust the headset, please make sure that:
1. The sponges are soaked.
2. The headset is fitted tightly to your head.
3. The angle of the electrodes is aligned with your head so the whole surface of the sponge is touching the head.
4. There is not too much dry hair directly underneath the electrodes.
All brains are wired differently and thus the experience of neurostimulation varies from person to person. Some people feel a clear change of mindset, others experience increased productivity but do not notice the stimulation happening.
The best way to feel an effect from the stimulation is to work as you normally would. Try not to think to much about it. The neurostimulation used in PlatoWork is a so called suggestive stimulation, which means, that you still have to activate your mind yourself; only now, it should be a lot easier.
This feeling is quite normal and caused by individual levels of skin sensitivity. If you experience an itching sensation while running a session, try to lower the intensity or add more water to the sponges. Your skin will most likely adjust to this sensation, if you use the headset more frequently. Most users don’t even notice this after getting familiar with the headset.