Archive for 'New Technology'

Emotiv EPOC, NeuroSky and more now supported by Mind WorkStation and Neuro-Programmer 3!

A number of very exciting connections between top EEG devices and Transparent software are now possible thanks to just-released updates for MindWork Station and Neuro-Programmer 3. Here’s an excerpt from the news story that just went up at TransparentCorp.com:

Today we’re releasing Mind WorkStation Version 1.3 and Neuro-Programmer Version 3.1. Along with bug fixes and general performance improvements, the main attraction in both updates is new compatibility with even more of the most advanced and popular EEG devices available. 4 new devices, representing developers that are true leaders in neuro-technology innovation, can now be utilized in both NP3 and MindWS:

Read the full news article here!

I’d personally suggest checking out the websites of the developers listed there as well. They’re involved in some of the most fascinating developments in the realm of EEG technology, so this certainly won’t be the last time these names come up on this blog.

Neuro-Programmer 3 release!

We are proud to introduce the long-awaited Neuro-Programmer 3!

In the last five years since the release of version 2, we have invested heavily into research to improve the neural stimulation and overall effectiveness of the program. We have also been collecting input from our customers on how to increase usability and enhance the user experience.

This release adds an array of new and exciting features, making Neuro-Programmer more powerful, usable and more effective than ever before.

Here are a few of the new features available in NP3:

– Improved sessions and neural stimulation methods

– Biofeedback-optimized neural stimulation

– Export to MP3 or OGG

– Reverberation / Echo effects

– Pitch / tempo effects

– Volume normalization

– Visual plugins and enhanced screen flashing

– ALL sessions are now editable

– Improved recording and hypnosis scripting tools

– New layout, wizards and overall enhanced user experience

Try it out for yourself today! Explore the website for more information:

What’s new

Purchase

Screenshots

Video Tutorials

Upgrade from version 2

Enjoy!

Mattel gets into the EEG business

A new brain gaming toy is coming out later this year, in the same vein as the Emotiv Headset and MindBall. This one is from an established toy company, Mattel. 

Yes, Mattel. From the people who brought you Hot Wheels, you will soon be able to purchase an EEG and accompanying game set.

Check out the video demonstration:

[YouTube]l8STHiP7HZY[/YouTube]

Read more about it here.

The sensors measure theta-wave activity in your brain; the waves are directly related to your level of focus and concentration. The sensors register the theta-wave activity, translate that activity into a signal, and transmit it as a radio frequency to the Mind Flex.

The more theta-wave activity there is, the faster the little fan in the unit will spin. The speed the fan spins at, and therefore moves the ball, is based on how hard you concentrate. The faster the fan spins, the higher the ball goes along the Z axis. Turn a dial and move the ball along the X and Y axis.

TED Talk On Biofeedback

If you haven’t viewed any of the TED videos, you’ve been missing out. There are some really stunning and thought-provoking ideas floating around.

Released this month is a short talk by neuroscientist Christopher deCharms, on the future of biofeedback technology. More specifically, he talks about the use of a rtfMRI, or “Real-time Functional MRI.”

Mental drumming

The Scientist released article today about a show in New York called “Trio for percussion and brain waves”.

The show consisted of three percussionists using their thoughts of drumming to create the performance. Their brain activity was measured, and certain spikes in that activity caused the instruments to play.

The fascinating part, to me, is that this was a trio – three people on stage, harmonizing with each other, using nothing but brainwaves.

From the article:

As a rapt audience watched, sounds issued from three laptops connected to the drummers by Bluetooth technology. The musicians’ brainwaves traveled through the air, triggering tones from the computers before leaping to life on the 12-foot-high screen hanging behind them.

The performance was part of an experiment designed by David Sulzer, Columbia University neuroscientist. It demonstrated Sulzer’s idea that thinking about an action could stimulate the brain in much the same way as actually carrying it out. 

 

When one of the three musicians started a mental music piece and the other two tried to accompany it, the brainwaves of the three synced up intermittently. “That was because they constantly needed to catch up with each other,” said Sulzer.

Here’s the article: http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/54510/ 

David Sulzer explains the process behind this more in a video here: http://scienceline.org/2008/03/26/video-intagliata-brainmusic

Thoughts on Mind-Gaming

Mind-based gaming is all over the news lately. The concept is being met with equal parts excitement, skepticism and downright paranoia. Who likes the idea of Microsoft “reading your thoughts”?

Of course, to those of us in the EEG industry, “mind gaming” is nothing new. On this blog I’ve written many posts about EEGs being used to play games, or move online avatars. You’ve seen Canadian Idol judges spar at MindBall. You’ve read about light-sabers coming to life using the mind alone. In fact our latest product Mind WorkStation is even capable brain-gaming by controlling on-screen visualizations. For example, one game involves starting a fire with nothing but brainwaves!

But, what this area has lacked thus far is a brain-computer interface that avoids the messy paste and exhaustive setup that most EEG units require. We need something that can just be slipped on and off. The device that looks like it will spearhead this new movement is the EPOC Neuroheadset from Emotiv.

Mind Hacks has a great write-up about the Emotiv technology here: http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2008/03/playing_mind_games_.html

He brings up some good points about EEG gaming. Gamers expecting this headset to instantly transform them into Jedi masters will likely be disappointed. EEGs are measuring very minute electrical signals that have to first pass through the skull, and other biofeedback technologies have delay issues that will render them useless for the fast pace of most games.

These issues have caused some problems already, as shown in a recent Emotiv demo in San Francisco, where they had to resort to using a handheld controller in order to complete the game. 

You can get an idea of the problems involved by looking at some demos uploaded to YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDpmSiMiscA&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59hgJlQ0tJI

Here is a better demo, but still illustrates how hard it is to use an EEG as a complex game controller: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxMux4uEkLI

Despite these problems, I do think mind gaming could be very successful if it is used in a way appropriate to the limitations of the technology. For example, it could easily be used to enhance the powers or abilities of certain characters in the game. In a Harry Potter game, the magic wand could be more powerful if the gamer produces a specific brainwave pattern. In a sports game, the team could run faster and score more if the gamer is in the “zone.” These types of uses, although less sexy than “moving things with your mind”, would actually be a much more realistic use of the technology.

Using neurofeedback-like technology for recreational gaming does bring up some concerns. Suppose, for example, a popular feature of a game – such as using objects or weapons – is triggered or enhanced by the production of theta waves. Given the addictive nature of games, I could easily see avid gamers developing “brain fog” or other problems associated with excess slow-wave activity.

It will be interesting to see what happens when this technology is released to an unsupervised mass market. Perhaps the algorithms used, and the way the games are structured, will help mitigate any problems that could occur. I admit that the geek in me wants to get one of these things immediately.

The Mind WorkStation release

A couple months ago I was browsing through some old posts on the forum and I found one from September of 2006 where I talked about an application that was going to be in beta testing in “a couple months”. How’s that for an off estimate?

After two years of research and development, Mind WorkStation was finally released on Monday. We celebrated with a pizza party.

A huge amount of work went into this. This is the seventh software product we’ve released, and by far the most ambitious and complex. All through the development, release and support of the other products I’ve been taking notes about what users want to be able to do, what research needs to be done and what problems are encountered. So, in this application we had a very large to-do list. And all throughout development we were working very closely with other researchers, developers, AVS manufacturers, EEG and biofeedback vendors.

Dr. Huang’s new research played a big part in constructing the sessions that come with it. For example, we have been able to separate sessions into verbal vs non-verbal skills improvement. A session for memory has been developed, based on some very promising studies. There are also more fascinating sessions included, such as a migraine session using alternating-eye photic stimulation at 30 Hz, or a muscle contraction headache session randomly stimulating 1-3 Hz. Another even more successful migraine session uses frequencies chosen by the user based on comfort, instead of using a set protocol!

The idea of self-chosen frequencies is very interesting, especially when dealing with a large frequency range and people who have no experience with brainwave entrainment. Some choose gamma, others choose theta, others choose delta, and so on. Yet, at least with migraines, all appeared to benefit the user tremendously.

Michael Hutchison wrote that people have a subjective feeling of “connectedness” to a frequency when they are being entrained to it successfully. Perhaps this subjective feeling has a part to play in the success of self-chosen frequencies. I’ve written many times about how different everyone’s response is to brainwave entrainment. One person may respond very well to 8 Hz but not to 10. Or to 5 Hz but not to 7. EEG research has yielded some intriguing insights into why this is.

Brainwave entrainment occurs best at one’s natural dominant frequencies. In fact, the more dominant the frequency is (the higher the amplitude), the narrower the range a person can entrain to. Someone with a very high dominant 10 Hz frequency, may not be able to entrain at all to 7 Hz.

This is where EEG-Driven stimulation becomes very useful. It is a simple thing to discover a person’s dominant frequency in any frequency band, and that data can then be transferred in real-time to Mind WorkStation to be converted into audio/visual stimuli. We worked with the fine people at Thought Technology to develop a number of EEG protocols that do this. I also developed similar protocols in BioExplorer as well, so our EEG customers can do the same. The EEG-driven sessions I’ve tried so far have been nothing short of amazing.

The response to Mind WorkStation so far has been very positive. It is already being put to use developing sessions for clinics, nursing homes, ADD kids and more. I’m really looking forward to seeing what people do with it. We purposefully designed it to be as flexible as possible, so I fully expect to see it used in ways I could never have imagined. In the end, that’s the point; to make research and development in this industry easy.

Before I get back to regular blogging, I thought I would use this space to share some cool Mind WorkStation features.

Waveform Ramping

In Mind WorkStation waveforms can be “morphed” into each other over time. For example, you could start with an isochronic beat, and slowly morph it into a sine wave:

Here is an animation showing what happens to the sound over time:

-

3D Audio Positioning

This allows you to position audio in 3D space. Take a listen to the results with a relaxation script read by Max, along with some other relaxing sounds. Listen with headphones if possible.

 3D sound sample.mp3

Ambience Generator

The ambience feature randomly generates sound, reducing habituation by creating a different experience every time.

Random ThunderStorm.mp3

Random Forest.mp3

Those are three neat features I like to show off, but there is a lot more to the program. Biofeedback integration, playlists, entrainment-safe audio effects, filtering methods, new stimulation techniques, and so on. Visit the below links if you’re interested in learning more:

http://www.transparentcorp.com/products/mindws

http://www.transparentcorp.com/products/mindws/overview.php

http://www.transparentcorp.com/products/mindws/features.php

Better yet, download it and try it out for yourself! http://www.transparentcorp.com/products/mindws/download.php

Regular posting will resume soon. A lot has happened in the entrainment and neuroscience world in the past few months, I just haven’t had time to write about it. :)

A music concert created with the brainwaves of the audience

From an outside perspective, this “concert” would look more like a gathering of cyborgs. But for those involved it is the holy grail of audience participation – using the brainwaves of the audience to produce music.

[YouTube]Ff-Dmlreg4I[/YouTube]

Using gamma waves to distinguish false memories from real ones

New research from the University of Pennsylvania has unveiled distinct gamma brainwave patterns associated with memory formation and recall:

Patients volunteered to study lists of words which they were then asked to recall at a later time.  When asked to recall the studied words, participants recalled some number of correct items and also made a small number of errors, recalling words that had not appeared on the target list.  

While patients performed the memory game, scientists observed electrical activity in their brains to determine whether specific brain waves were associated with successfully storing and retrieving memories. Researchers found that a fast brain wave, known as the gamma rhythm, increased when participants studied a word that they would later recall. The same gamma waves, whose voltage rises and fall between 50 and 100 times per second, also increased in the half-second prior to participants correctly recalling an item.  

These analyses revealed that the same pattern of gamma band oscillatory activity in the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and left temporal lobe that predicts successful memory formation also re-emerged at retrieval, distinguishing correct from incorrect responses, said Per B. Sederberg, lead author and former Penn neuroscientist now performing post-doctoral research at Princeton University.  The timing of these oscillatory effects suggests that self-cued memory retrieval initiates in the hippocampus and then spreads to the cortex.  Thus, retrieval of true as compared with false memories induces a distinct pattern of gamma oscillations, possibly reflecting recollection of contextual information associated with past experience.

Full article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071023163853.htm 

These kinds of advancements in our understanding of memory will be incredibly useful in diagnosing and alleviating neurological problems from epilepsy to schizophrenia.

Here is the full paper: http://memory.psych.upenn.edu/publications/files/SedeEtal07b.pdf

For more on recent work on gamma waves, check out this lecture by Robert Knight: http://www.mindupdate.com/?p=63 

Thanks to Tyler on the forums for finding this.

Brainwave monitoring changing the way psychiatrists work

As a follow up to the video about EEG-assisted hypnosis, I came upon an article today about how EEGs could be implemented in talk therapy and traditional Psychiatry. 

Running with scissors 

In many ways, modern day mental health is still a series of trials and errors. If you are depressed your psychiatrist may start you out on a regimen of Wellbutrin. After the medicine has been given adequate time to take effect, the therapist will determine if the treatment is working by asking you questions about your subjective experience. If it turns out the drug isn’t working, the dosage may be increased, a new drug may be prescribed or a new approach may be recommended. This can be frustrating for both clients and therapists.

There are a lot of external variables that can make your subjective experience of a therapy’s effectiveness differ starkly from reality. Further compounding the problem is how long it can take for a drug to have a meaningful impact on people, to the extent that one could reliably say “this is working for me.” Under normal circumstances, six to eight weeks will pass before any real benefits will be noticed. Many people are also resistant to specific psychoactive drugs, and some people seem to have very little reaction at all to any drug. 

To help solve this problem, a new EEG device is being developed specifically with psychiatrists in mind. It monitors brainwaves and uses the analysis to determine if a certain drug is having the expected effect. If the drug is doing its job, or is likely to work in the future, brain activity in specific areas will change. Studies of this have shown that it can take as little as a single week to reliably determine if a particular therapy is working – long before any subjective effects would normally be noticed by the patient or therapist.

The new device is also meant to be simple to use, so it can be easily employed with minimal training, and could even be operated by office staff such as a nurse:

Requiring only five electrodes to be placed on a subject’s forehead and temples, rather than 20 or more electrodes scattered over the entire scalp, the device is much easier to use than the EEG systems typically employed in research labs.

The company is now sponsoring a large, multicenter clinical trial to determine if the device can reliably detect antidepressant response. Initial results from the study, presented this week in San Diego at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, are promising. After a week of treatment, the device could predict if a particular drug would work in the longer term 70 to 80 percent of the time.

“Psychiatry is the last specialty without a good diagnostic test to guide treatment,” says Andrew Leuchter, a researcher and psychiatrist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a study leader. “I think there is a lot of enthusiasm for a quick test that can be carried out in the doctor’s office and inform treatment.” Leuchter’s group did some of the early research underlying the device, and he heads Aspect’s science advisory board.

Aspect expects to finish the trial of more than 300 patients this year and is in talks with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about requirements for regulatory approval. The company eventually aims to market the device to psychiatrists. “Many patients will abandon their medications if they do not feel sufficient improvement in the first few weeks,” says Maurizio Fava, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston. “So having a reliable prediction will help patients stay on track.”

Another device mentioned in the article, called the NeuroStar, is designed to be used with patients that seem resistant to all drugs. It stimulates the brain with magnetic pulses through the skull, and in trials it worked 40 percent of the time. The NeuroStar is meant as an alternative to the very invasive “electroconvulsive therapy”, which requires surgery and has some nasty side effects, but is needed in severe cases where the patient is resistent to drugs.

Though it is not mentioned in the article, audio/visual Brainwave Entrainment could also be a very effective, easy to use and certainly noninvasive way to assist the modern therapist in treating a wide variety of clients. We have many users of our products who experience great relief with BWE where they found none with other therapies. We get a lot of calls from new therapists interested in this technology, most of which heard about it through their clients! Many of them are now sending their patients home with BWE CDs created using our software. Some are even setting up “brainwave entrainment” rooms, complete with a lazy boy, a Light/Sound Synergizer and a laptop to drive the stimulation.

Emerging neurotechnology is going to vastly change the mental health industry in the coming decades .

On the other hand ….

Perhaps someday, a visit to the psychiatrist’s office will resemble a trip to the dentist’s or physical therapist’s office, where a mental hygienist, rather than a dental hygienist, will work on your brain before the doctor comes in to render his final opinion.

I think one of the better aspects of traditional psychiatry is the stereotypical therapist’s office: the couch, the plants, the dim lighting, the shelf full of books probably never read… Many people loathe visiting the dentist or doctor. The lighting is too bright, the mood feels rushed, like an assembly line. I rarely spend more than 3 or 4 minutes with my doctor – most of every visit is spent in the waiting room or talking to the nurse. I think it is important not to let the mental health industry fall into that trap. A therapist’s office should be a comfortable place. Don’t abandon the couch. Instead, employ these new technologies to ensure clients are receiving the best treatment available.

Here’s the article: http://www.technologyreview.com/Biotech/18791/