Shown here (from the video) working on the PlatoWork prototype. Note montage which according to the talk, would be focused on increasing creativity. In the video he calls the stimulation TES (Transcranial Electric Stimulation).
“Creative people somehow forget to turn off the spontaneous system while thye’re working on a task”.
Stimulation electrodes were positioned bilaterally over the frontal cortex (centered on EEG electrode locations F3 and F4) with a common electrodeover the apex (Cz).
But the PlatoScience FAQ clearly states they’re using tDCS.
At PlatoScience we use a version of neurostimulation called tDCS (Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation).
So here we have the first (to my knowledge) commercially available (€399) TES device designed specifically to enhance creativity. Interestingly, PlatoScience has a forum and test site (according to the video) where users can discuss their experience. The device is operated via smart phone.
An email from Michelle Pearson at the NIH (because I had signed up for the online version of the workshop) alerted me today to a trove of TES (Transcranial Electric Stimulation) info being made available to us. Presenter slides (in PDF form) from the workshop were available for download. Because the download process was pretty wonky, involving many clicks and declined logins to Dropbox I thought to make them available here as well.
For the first time, UNC School of Medicine scientists report using transcranial alternating current stimulation, or tACS, to target a specific kind of brain activity during sleep and strengthen memory in healthy people.
The device did seem to work on some level. For 15 minutes, I experienced a light pressure on the side of my forehead while the electrodes delivered pulses. Toward the end of the session and for about an hour afterward, my brain was definitely down a notch. However, I wouldn’t describe the feeling as zen so much as vaguely stoned. This is apparently not unusual, as one of the company’s publicity reps, Mark de la Vina, told me that it makes a small percentage of users feel high. I felt a pleasant, light floatiness and noticed myself typing and speaking more slowly.
The sensation was something I could definitely get used to — although I won’t be swapping out my meditation practice for a vibe session anytime soon.
“People seek to relax … in different ways,” said Dr. Judy Iles, a University of British Columbia neuroethicist. “But why it is better or safer than exercise, meditation or fresh air or other healthy lifestyle behaviors is not evident.”
The bottom line? Early adopters are essentially part of an experiment. Casual users might replace the evening cocktail with an occasional zap, but until more research is done, you’d be wise to think twice before replacing your morning coffee with a jolt to the head.
Following up on the recent Flavio Frohlich paper. Some details here in the abstract about how the boost in creativity was achieved.
Creativity, the ability to produce innovative ideas, is a key higher-order cognitive function that is poorly understood. At the level of macroscopic cortical network dynamics, recent electroencephalography (EEG) data suggests that cortical oscillations in the alpha frequency band (8–12 Hz) are correlated with creative thinking. However, whether alpha oscillations play a functional role in creativity has remained unknown. Here we show that creativity is increased by enhancing alpha power using 10 Hz transcranial alternating current stimulation (10 Hz-tACS) of the frontal cortex. In a study of 20 healthy participants with a randomized, balanced cross-over design, we found a significant improvement of 7.4% in the Creativity Index measured by the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT), a comprehensive and most frequently used assay of creative potential and strengths. In a second similar study with 20 subjects, 40 Hz-tACS was used instead of 10 Hz-tACS to rule out a general “electrical stimulation” effect. No significant change in the Creativity Index was found for such frontal 40 Hz stimulation. Our results suggest that alpha activity in frontal brain areas is selectively involved in creativity; this enhancement represents the first demonstration of specific neuronal dynamics that drive creativity and can be modulated by non-invasive brain stimulation. Our findings agree with the model that alpha recruitment increases with internal processing demands and is involved in inhibitory top-down control, which is an important requirement for creative ideation.
For the Cortex study, Frohlich’s team enrolled 20 healthy adults. Researchers placed electrodes on each side of each participant’s frontal scalp and a third electrode toward the back of the scalp. This way, the 10-Hertz alpha oscillation stimulation for each side of the cortex would be in unison. This is a key difference in Frohlich’s method as compared to other brain stimulation techniques.
Each participant underwent two sessions. During one session, researchers used a 10-Hertz sham stimulation for just five minutes. Participants felt a little tingle at the start of the five minutes. For the next 25 minutes, each participant continued to take the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, a comprehensive and commonly used test of creativity. In one task, each participant was shown a small fraction of an illustration – sometimes just a bent line on a piece of paper. Participants used the line to complete an illustration, and they wrote a title when they finished.
In the other session each participant underwent the same protocol, except they were stimulated at 10 Hertz for the entire 30 minutes while doing the Torrance test. The tingling sensation only occurred at the start of the stimulation, ensuring that each participant did not know which session was the control session.
Because rating creativity or scoring a test can involve subjectivity, Frohlich sent each participant’s work to the company that created the test. “We didn’t even tell the company what we were doing,” Frohlich said. “We just asked them to score the tests.
”Then Frohlich’s team compared each participant’s creativity score for each session. He found that during the 30-minute stimulation sessions, participants scored an average 7.4 percentage points higher than they did during the control sessions.