Mind-powered instrument lets paralysis victims create music

Mind Powered Instrument Lets Victims Create Music

A composer and computer-music specialist has created a brain-music computer interface system which offers paralysis victims something they don't normally possess: the ability to make music.

BCIs (Brain-Computer Interfaces) rely on the user's ability to learn to achieve specific mental states that brain-scanning technology will detect and respond to. An EEG (electroencephalogram) quickly processes faint neural signals, which are picked up by electrodes placed on the skull. But in order to make music, a pattern must be created in the EEG signal. The user does this by focusing on a repeated stimulus, directing their attention to flashing "buttons" that appear on a computer screen, each of which produce a different musical effect when targeted, as the video shows.

Depending on what effects are triggered by a specific button, the user can alter the level of control they have by how much attention they focus on it. Different levels of concentration will produce different notes, for example. The device demonstrates how much attention the user is paying by changing the size of the button that is being concentrated on. It should be emphasized, of course, that patients still need to be able to control eye movement to allow concentration to direct the type of musical effect produced in this type of BCI.

As with other musical instruments, practice makes perfect. As users become more familiar with thinking in the right way their skills will improve, eventually allowing them to use the buttons like keys on a piano to create a melody.

For more details: