Did you hear about our “Program X / Y” CrowdScience project? In this project, we launched two completely new stimulation programs to our existing users, but instead of telling our users what they should experience, we asked them to tell us what they experienced.
After 1444 sessions and feedback over 4.5 months, 466.73 lines of feedback, we combined the feedback from users with the current state of the scientific literature, and named the two programs “Clarity” (was X) and “Calm” (was Y).
Clarity (was X)
Clear your mind from unwanted thoughts
Increase alertness and cognitive control, keep your mind off unwanted thoughts/cravings and increase your clarity and alertness. This mode stimulates the activity in the right prefrontal cortex, while at the same time silencing the default mode network.
Calm (was Y)
Support your brain to rest and mindfulness
Gives calm and fluid thoughts, increased mindfulness, reflection and self awareness. This mode reduces activity in the right prefrontal cortex, an area associated with higher cognitive processes, while stimulating the precuneus and the default mode network.
The bottom up perspective
We would like to extend a sincere appreciation to our users who participated in our extended CrowdScience data gathering for the naming and descriptions of the X and Y programs! In neuroscience, hypotheses are normally ‘top down’ driven: defined by the scientists and then tested with users/participants.
With certain novel parts of neuroscience, we believe that there is great value in also considering the ‘bottom up’ perspective, in letting hypotheses be informed by the users themselves. This is a crucial part of the concept of CrowdScience, as practiced by us here at PlatoScience, to work together with our users to improve our understanding of neuroscience.
Transcranial Electrical Stimulation
The science of transcranial electrical stimulation (TES) has been around for a long time (3000 to 20 years, depending on who you ask), and we know all the crucial core aspects of these forms of neurostimulation - such as the mechanisms and safety aspects.
Still, there are lots of exciting open questions still to be answered (e.g. the individual differences, the repetitive stability, single use versus longitudinal effects, the context dependency, etc) and here at PlatoScience we believe that these questions are hard or impossible to answer with small lab studies alone. Therefore, we use the concept of CrowdScience as a way to bridge the lab with the real world, and let the two inform each other.
Between the lab and you
By placing us in the interface between the lab and the real world, we believe that we can contribute to bridging the gap between these two domains to advance the whole field of neuroscience. We consider the X and Y project is a great example of how classical ‘top down’ hypotheses can be combined with the ‘bottom up’ perspective.
From a top down perspective, there is a very limited amount of existing research to support concrete hypotheses about exactly which cognitive effects to expect from each of the two programs (more details below).
Therefore, starting any structured experiments to investigate these two modes would start with a lot of guesswork and failed attempts. So while we have a number of hypotheses about the expected effects from the two novel programs X and Y (F4 to Pz and Pz to F4), before starting the tedious lab of investigating these further, we initiated the CrowdScience experiment with you – our users – to guide our inquiries.
Feedback on the X and Y project
Based on the feedback from our users, we consider the “X and Y” project a huge success.
Program X: 189 unique users with a total of 1096 attempted sessions
Program Y: 125 unique users with a total of 601 attempted sessions
Comments on Clarity
"I felt body releases randomly throughout this session. Changes in focus, letting go."
"Peaceful and clear headed. Less mind chatter."
"Alert and seems to have a positive effect on mood."
Comments on Calm
"Excellent experience today. I felt the session start with simultaneous stimulation from right pre-frontal cortex and mid to left parietal cortex with pfc > lpc. I felt an arc across the right side of my head encompass an empty space. My meditation brought insights & deep memories."
"More focused, problem solving improved"
The feedback was quite consistent, and a qualitative analysis of the feedback was used in combination with the top down hypotheses to generate the names and descriptions.
The top down hypotheses
So what does Program X and Y actually do? Program X or Clarity (anodal F4, cathodal F3) is, from the current literature, likely to result in increased cognitive control, sustained focus/attention over time, reduction of impact from distraction, and reduction of unwanted thoughts.
Current clinical use is mainly related to treatment of addiction and PTSD. Making the top down hypothesis for Program Y or Calm (anodal Pz and cathodal F4) was more challenging, as the precedence from the tDCS literature is quite limited. The hypothesis is mainly driven by the known core functions of Pz/precuneus and the default mode network, and cathodal stimulation of F4.
The relevant findings from the literature are related to: Increased self awareness, self reflection, self-processing operations, self-related mental representations, general imagery, episodic memory retrieval, perspective shifting, and mind wandering.
Another cluster of findings is related to switching between internal and external based processing, monitoring the external environment with respect to internal predictions, towards the goal of guiding behaviour, prediction-error representation of ongoing real-life events.
Current clinical applications related to Pz increase includes battling cognitive decline and ageing, and general meta plasticity, and F4 decrease includes treatments for OCD, depression, and stress.
We hope to find the time to publish a more comprehensive scientific text about the programs X and Y and the CrowdScience project at a later point in time.
The route forward
The next step in the CrowdScience project is to follow up with two types of data collection: a systematic analysis of the feedback and data stream from our users, in parallel with initiating lab studies together with our research partners to test the new hypotheses in controlled lab environments.
We will, as always, keep you posted!