Saturday, August 12, 2017

Making Music with Your Mind #Science #Neurology #Encephalophone

Neurologists have created a hands-free, thought-controlled musical instrument, which they've recently described in a report in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Researchers hope that this new instrument will help empower and rehabilitate patients with motor disabilities such as those from stroke, spinal cord injury, amputation, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

"The Encephalophone is a musical instrument that you control with your thoughts, without movement," explains Thomas Deuel, a neurologist at Swedish Medical Center and a neuroscientist at the University of Washington, and first author of the report.

"I am a musician and neurologist, and I've seen many patients who played music prior to their stroke or other motor impairment, who can no longer play an instrument or sing," says Deuel. "I thought it would be great to use a brain-computer instrument to enable patients to play music again without requiring movement."

The Encephalophone collects brain signals through a cap that transforms specific signals into musical notes. The invention is coupled with a synthesizer, allowing the user to create music using a wide variety of instrumental sounds.

Science Daily:  Creating music by thought alone

Yah and you thought this was going to be some bogus stoner rambling.  Well, it is some stoner rambling but the source is real.

Driving the instrument isn't entirely mental since closing one's eyes is part of the method.

"We first sought to prove that novices -- subjects who had no training on the Encephalophone whatsoever -- could control the device with an accuracy that was better than random," says Deuel. "These first subjects did quite well, way above chance probability on their very first try."

The Encephalophone can be controlled via two independent types of brain signals: either those associated with the visual cortex (i.e. closing one's eyes), or those associated with thinking about movement. Control by thinking about movement may be the most useful for disabled patients, and Deuel plans to continue researching this application. But for now, this current study shows that, at least for this small group of novice users, control by eye closing is more accurate than control by imagining movements.

- SD

Apparently it's authentic and that is the Encephalophone

Photographer:  unknown

The goals of the researchers are as noble as you could possibly want.

In a collaboration with the Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS), Deuel has built upon such research to make the Encephalophone more musically versatile, as well as easier to use.

Deuel and his collaborators are already working with more people to see how much users can improve with training. Deuel also plans to begin clinical trials of the Encephalophone later this year to see whether it may be useful or enjoyable for disabled patients.

"There is great potential for the Encephalophone to hopefully improve rehabilitation of stroke patients and those with motor disabilities," Deuel says.

- SD

We're proud of their work and dedication but we aren't quite so noble.  We wonder what happens when the Encephalophone gets so well-developed it's serving the needs of those with some type of neurological trauma and then we look around to discover what else we can do with it.

Zen Yogi:  is this the stoner rambling part?

Oh sure

Every advance in music has come with a corresponding advance in the ability to play it, typically with new types of instruments.  Amplified music resulted in "Rock Around the Clock" in the Fifties and that's never stopped.  Synthesizers broke the rock guitar band model which had been so successful and multiple genres of music benefitted from it.  Conversely, samplers came later and they ran music into the ground where it remains today.

Note: a sampler can take audio samples of the work of others which you can then jack around in some way to call your own.  Goodbye copyright forever.

The Encephalophone goes into an entirely new musical dimension since physical ability to play won't mean anything but the mental ability to think musically will be vital.  This may well be the type of technology which brings music back to life again.

Zen Yogi:  wouldn't you say the difficult act of learning to play an instrument is a required part of the discipline?

Joy joy as I can play this one, Yogi.  Would you not say that thinking is the most difficult discipline of all?

Zen Yogi:  you win, Silas.  You can have the last KFC chicken breast if you like.

That's damn decent of you, Yogi, but you take it, my furry bear buddy.

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