Brain stimulator

Category: Inventions

Brain stimulator cover picture

This is a piece of performance gear I built for Koelse show in 2015 edition of H2Ö festival, Turku, Finland. The theme of the show was given in somewhat cryptic terms: Twisting the progress of time, water, mechanics and occultism and even lotta spiritus post installation. Since I was in Finland at that time, I decided to contribute something.

Regarding the original conception of the device, I had read some crazy stuff about “transcranial direct current stimulation” on the internet. I have to say that the claims of all sorts of great cognitive and health benefits with no adverse effects at all are not very believeable. However, there is something very curious about the idea, and on the top of that the needed machinery is remarkably simple. I guess I just wanted to give people the chance to try it for the first time in their life, and to see how it works myself.

The helmet’s principle of operation is very simple. There is a current limiter inside, providing no more than 2 mA of current, which was deemed the safe limit by some web sites. After the limiter, there is a multiplexer that routes the current through one of four possible current paths. These routes lead to the helmet and ultimately to user’s skin, through electrodes made of foam plastic. Ever changing path of current causes varying effects on the user. The most curious of them is a visual effect not unlike flashes from a stroboscope. So, without having any clues beforehand, I managed to create a hallucination inducing device.

In an attempt to avoid creating an one trick pony, I made the helmet to expect external control for choosing the current path. Another motivation for such modular design was the fact that I had just built the Biafra! sequencer, but I did not have anything to sequence. This was a great surprise to the people of KulturGüter-Schuppen whose plans and circuit board Biafra is based on; they had not even considered that it could be used for something else than control of musical instruments.

The helmet around which the whole thing was built was found in an abandoned construction site in Ljubljana. It was just an ordinary construction helmet, but I have to suppose it was left over by some amateur occultists. I inferred this from the fact that it was taped onto the head of a toy robot dog whose face was burned and melted.

I took the helmet, but could not be so heartless as to leave the dog behind. Here my mind played a trick on me, I simply could not think of the dog without the helmet. So, in the end he became part of the show, as a secondary receiver of the impulses going to the helmet. So, it is you and Branko in the stimulator together. I think it works better if you hold him on your lap and pet him while receiving the impulses.

In addition to the initial show in H2Ö, the brain stimulator has also been presented in two other festival, the 2015 editions of Mfru-Kiblix festival in Maribor, Slovenia and Generate! festival in Tübingen, Germany. On top that, a lot of people have also been treated in multiple smaller events and informal occassions.