Live EEG recording of “Tsonhakapa” Tibetan meditation:
Live EEG recording of “Tsonhakapa” Tibetan meditation:
Believe it or not, brainwaves are not only used for medical diagnosis and therapy. For decades EEG activity has been investigated as a non-invasive way to control external devices using “thought power” alone.
This could become an extremely useful technology for disabled persons, but could also be a way to improve productivity in many work environments, or could give users finer control over complex equipment. For example, the U.S. government is currently exploring ways EEG could be used to give personnel “hands off” control over vehicles and planes. A few months ago I saw a bit on the news about a guy who connected the steering on his boat to an EEG, so he could use his own thought to steer the ship around a harbor.
Popular EEG software today has many interesting capabilities built in. You can use your mind as a remote control for DVDs, to control games or create music.
But could the brain’s activity alone replace the steady hands of a painter? Could the brain alone replicate the complex melodies of professional musicians?
Brainwaves as a musical instrument
The use of brain waves to control tones and MIDI instruments has been the subject of research for some time. During the WinterBrain conference I heard the distinct atonal, random-sounding notes coming out an EEG-controlled synthesizer. Coming from a musical family myself, I wouldn’t call what comes out of most of these devices music. But improvements in the algorithms used could revolutionize the process. Here is a recent video that will show you what I mean:
Brainwaves as a paintbrush
The definition of art is an interesting debate to follow, and has changed a lot in modern centuries, with Marcel DuChamp famously submitting an unaltered urinal to a museum as his showpiece in 1917.
As time moves on, we will see advances in technology creating many new and exciting art forms and genres. Some might call EEG a pure form of expression unequaled by other mediums, where you are truly peering into the soul of the artist.
So far visual representation of EEG signals has been largely limited to wave-like images of varying colors, used mainly for therapy and analysis. But newcomers to the field are taking this to an entirely new level. I saw some interesting video coming out of a booth at WinterBrain, not unlike the visualizations used in Mind Stereo and other media players.
Here are some videos of the innovative, EEG-powered “Mind VJ”:
Excerpt from the site:
The role of the VJ is to create a visual performance in real time, inspired by the rhythm and flow of the DJ’s music performance.
In MIND VJ, the idea is to use the rhythm of our own brain waves as the conducting element for the performance. In this manner, we can tap into a normally “hidden” area of our body (brain function and its electrical activity) and make it “visible” in the form of projected images. In this case, the images projected won’t be wave graphs, like the ones usually plotted by medical EEG machines, but artistic images, undergoing real-time changes and manipulations controlled by the current brain wave output of the subject (the MIND VJ)
Brainwaves as a game controller
There was a lot of buzz at the end of 2006 about the new gaming controller released by Nintendo. Because it requires more movement than the typical gamepad or joystick, chiropractors and fitness gurus around the world hailed the new controller as a healthy advancement likely to make our society a tad bit less sedentary.
Perhaps in 5 or 10 years the latest and greatest game controller will be a headband that picks up on brain signals, and neurologists around the world will praise it for its capacity for brain exercise.
Here is a recent article on a teenager who learned to control the game Space Invaders with an EEG signal: http://news-info.wustl.edu/news/page/normal/7800.html
Here is another game that has been making some news lately, called MindBall: http://www.i-p.se/index.aspx?page=mindball&mId=1
Brainwaves for controlling robots??
I admit I’m having trouble thinking of ways this could be useful to society, but it sure is cool!
We spent the weekend at the FutureHealth Winterbrain conference in Palm Springs, CA, and just got back Monday evening.
While the primary reason for attending was to see Tina’s presentation, we also had a chance to view some of the speakers and talk to some of the presenters. I spent some time talking shop with Chuck Davis of the Roshi Corporation, and did a session on his new unit. It was pleasant, and we got to try out his “Mag Stims” or electro-magnetic stimulation which he places on the SMR strip. This is in addition to the LED glasses we normally use.
It is an altogether different experience, doing a BWE session in the middle of a room full of people. Yet, in a conference like this it is almost required that you attach something to your head at some point, and zone out. Within 5 minutes I felt invisible, like a fly on the wall, simply listening to the bustle of the room, relaxing. The atmosphere was almost calming, maybe because the dozens of conversations surrounding me easily replaced my own internal mental chatter. Perhaps this is why many people (including myself) find the sounds of people relaxing. In NP1 we included a number of sessions that used chatter from a crowd, a restaurant or the sounds of a city, and you can still find many of those sound files in our member’s area.
I also got a chance to try the new “Healing Rhythms” software from Wild Divine. Again, an interesting experience trying to perform biofeedback in a room full of people, but I surprised myself at how easily I was able to go through the exercises.
The night before Tina’s presentation we had some technical difficulties. My laptop’s mouse became completely unusable, and the powerpoint installation on Cynthia’s laptop suddenly started giving us problems. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones. The laptop provided for speakers by FutureHealth was also on the fritz. There is something about Palm Springs that destroys computers, I’ve decided 🙂
Despite that, we were able to figure it out and Tina’s presentation went off without a hitch. She did a fantastic job with it. The speech was crammed with useful information – so much that I could tell there was probably a lot more she could have put into it, given a larger time frame. The study itself, when released, will be a great asset to the field and will hopefully draw a lot of interest to BWE.
After the presentation, Tina got some very positive feedback from the audience, and we were approached by a number of people asking for more information about our products. We brought a dozen NP2 trial CDs with us and ended up giving away all of them.
Here are a few pictures I was able to snap:
Tina near the end of her presentation. You probably can’t see her well here because of the lighting (I didn’t want to be rude and use a flash), but she’s in front of the plant off on the right.
Winterbrain exhibitor’s room.
We had a great time, and are considering exhibiting in the future, based on the positive response we got from the presentation.
Well, I’m exhausted still from all the traveling, so that’s all I can write for now. I apologize to anyone who emailed us over the weekend and on Monday – as I said, my laptop died. I spent most of Monday evening trying to catch up. 🙂
A new technology in brain imaging is emerging and showing great promise. It is called MEG or magnetoencephalography. Similar to EEG, it picks up on brain activity directly through the scalp – only instead of measuring electricity it measures magnetic fields. This is useful since every electric current produces a magnetic field.
The advantage over EEG is that magnetic fields travel unimpeded through the skull, making it significantly more accurate.
However, picking up on magnetic fields is more difficult than attaching a few electrodes to the head. Each MEG machine is a superconductor housed in a magnetically shielded room, with a pool of liquid helium nestled around the head of the subject.
Here is an interesting article on MEG: http://www.wired.com/news/technology/medtech/0,72277-0.html?tw=wn_index_1
Some great photos: http://blog.wired.com/wiredphotos12/
I also found a video: