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Here you can find answers to the most common questions
At PlatoScience we use a version of neurostimulation called tDCS (Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation), a scientific method for painless brain stimulation which uses a micro dose of electrical current to stimulate specific parts of the brain. The main benefits of this method is that it does not puncture the skin and that it cannot force any unwanted activity in the brain, as it can only support the naturally occurring activity. tDCS is indeed a scientific method, originally developed for medical purposes but more recently frequently applied for non medical purposes. There is no doubt that tDCS can modulate neural activity and thereby influence the brain activity of subjects. The basic fundament of the method stem from the 60’s and 70’s, but over the last 10-15 years the amount of scientific research into tDCS has expanded.
TES is an umbrella term for a wide range of non-invasive brain stimulation methods, and various versions of TES (e.g. tDCS, tACS, tRNS) have been used successfully for a wide range of scientific studies. We are currently utilising a method called tDCS (transcranial Direct Current Stimulation) in the PlatoWork device, but will include other versions in future versions.
We have experienced that some of our followers are skeptical in terms of medical risks, especially with repeated use of tDCS & TES. Using brain scanning techniques independent researchers have not been able to find any lasting pathological changes (Iyezr et al., 2005; Nitsche, Niehaus et al., 2004) or other brain injuries (e.g. neuronal injury such as neuron-specific enolase (Nitsche & Paulus, 2001) from TES.
As with other brain stimulation techniques, some studies and users report minor and rare temporary side effects from neurostimulation like tDCS. Most of the side effects reported in existing studies (for more info see Poreisz et al., 2007) are related to the skin directly under the electrodes include tingling, mild pain, rashes and local itching during stimulation. Some users also report temporal cognitive side effects during and immediately after stimulation which include moderate fatigue, headache and nausea.
If tDCS & TES is used incorrectly, some users have reported other side effects like visual sensations and 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. Some sources mention skin burns as a risk with TES, but in a recent scientific study using the industry safety norm found it to be safe with regards to skin burns and skin damages when deploying tDCS correctly (Loo et al, 2011). Professional tDCS devices like PlatoWork are designed specifically to make incorrect use impossible.
This is a common question we get, but there are no reports of tDCS neurostimulation causing psychosis. On the contrary tDCS has been shown to have beneficial effects on mental conditions such as schizophrenia, and it is currently being investigated whether tDCS can be used as a treatment for such conditions.
Another common concern we meet is questions regarding the risk for epileptic seizures. In a previous TES study in patients with refractory epilepsy, it did not show an increase in seizures (Fregni, Thome-Souza et al., 2006), and another meta study found no previous examples of TES causing epileptic seizures in humans (Poreisz et al., 2007). In a study of TES effects on rats the researchers even found anti-epileptic effects of the tDCS stimulation used (Liebetanz et al., 2006).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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”.
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.
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.
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.
If you have difficulties achieving a good connection before running a session, there are several tings you can try:
- Tighten your headset a bit more
- Add more salt water to the white sponges
- Remove hair underneath the electrodes and white sponges
- Slightly adjust the angle of headset, while still keeping a distance of approximately three fingers between the two frontal electrodes and your eyebrows
As our brains are wired differently, the experience of neurostimulation varies depending on the individual. 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 you still have to activate your mind yourself; only now it should be a lot easier.
Some people experience itching from the electrodes while stimulated. The itching of the skin is due to the salt water in the sponges and not the stimulation itself and depends a lot of your skin sensitivity. You can try two things:
- Try decreasing and then intensifying the stimulation. This is controlled in the app while running a stimulation mode.
- Make a new salt water solution with less salt. This will reduce the itching, but will also reduce the connection between your skin and the electrode, so you have to find the right balance for obtaining both a good connection and less itching.
PlatoWork can help you to either Focus on a task at hand or Create new ideas.
Focus stimulates what is known as convergent thinking; a state of mind where you are structured and absorbed in the task you’re working on. Create stimulates divergent thinking, a state of mind where you are associating freely and generating new ideas.
During a workday, we are often required to switch between these two ways of thinking, but our brain needs time to make these mindset changes. PlatoWork assists this process allowing you to enter your desired mindset faster and work more efficiently at all times.