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The brain purportedly produces very weak EM waves.
EEG is a method of measuring electrical brain activity, it has classifications for the types of brain wave it can detect: Theta, Alpha, Beta, Gamma etc.
Are these the weak EM waves the brain produces?
If not what is the frequency range of the EM waves that the brain produces and does it vary depending on mental state?
I assume with EM you refer to electromagnetic?
You are right that the EEG (electroencephalogram) is a tiny signal. When about 50.000 neurons fire simultaneously, it possible to see a change in the measured signal. Typical EEG amplitudes are in the microvolt range.
Now, when the EEG is recorded, it is a function of time. You could for example collect data from 64 sensors, using a typical sampling frequency of 1000 Hz, and obtain 100000 samples from each sensor during a 100 second measurement.
So, what are alpha, beta, gamma, etc? When the recorded EEG signals are transformed into the frequency-domain (using the discrete Fourier transform), the signals become represented as a function of frequency. The obtained frequency range is half of the sampling frequency (according to the sampling theorem). So, with $f_s = 1 $ kHz you may observe frequencies from $0$ to $500$ Hz. Now, to make it easier to discuss about specific parts of the frequency range, they have been given names: delta refers to frequencies from 0-4 Hz, alpha to frequencies 7-15 Hz etc. So, these are just arbitrary names for different frequency ranges. (And yes, some processes do occur in quite exact ranges.)
So what effects what the EEG spectra will look like? Just about everything. From a short segment of data, it is rather impossible to say anything. This is why many paradigms do averaging: for example, you are presented a sound 100 times, and the repetitions are averaged to cancel uncorrelated noise. Have a look at the so called oddball paradigm, for example. Single-trial and continuous recording are also done today, but they are more difficult to analyse.
(Side note: since you asked about electromagnetic brain waves, have a look at magnetoencephalography too… )
For reference, see e.g. Luck (2005), An Introduction to the Event-related Potential Technique. Fourier transforms, sampling theorem, and signal averaging are well covered in Wikipedia.
It's important to clarify what an EEG machine measures. Electromagnetic waves are photons. An EEG does does not detect radiation. It detects magnetic fields by measuring an electrical current induced in the measuring device by the brain.
Electricity is the movement of electrons. Electromagnetic waves are photons of light. Magnetism a force which fills space from energy and matter with electrical charge.
EEG machines detect magnetism induced by action potentials. Magnetism is not a wave. It's a field.
Brain waves are an observation that action potentials may fire in a pattern which resembles a wave. There are also neurons which do not fire in wave like patterns. The wave here is an emergent property only.
Mind Control by Cell Phone
Electromagnetic signals from cell phones can change your brainwaves and behavior. But don't break out the aluminum foil head shield just yet.
Hospitals and airplanes ban the use of cell phones, because their electromagnetic transmissions can interfere with sensitive electrical devices. Could the brain also fall into that category? Of course, all our thoughts, sensations and actions arise from bioelectricity generated by neurons and transmitted through complex neural circuits inside our skull. Electrical signals between neurons generate electric fields that radiate out of brain tissue as electrical waves that can be picked up by electrodes touching a person's scalp. Measurements of such brainwaves in EEGs provide powerful insight into brain function and a valuable diagnostic tool for doctors. Indeed, so fundamental are brainwaves to the internal workings of the mind, they have become the ultimate, legal definition drawing the line between life and death.
Brainwaves change with a healthy person's conscious and unconscious mental activity and state of arousal. But scientists can do more with brainwaves than just listen in on the brain at work-they can selectively control brain function by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). This technique uses powerful pulses of electromagnetic radiation beamed into a person's brain to jam or excite particular brain circuits.
Although a cell phone is much less powerful than TMS, the question still remains: Could the electrical signals coming from a phone affect certain brainwaves operating in resonance with cell phone transmission frequencies? After all, the caller's cerebral cortex is just centimeters away from radiation broadcast from the phone's antenna. Two studies provide some revealing news.
The first, led by Rodney Croft, of the Brain Science Institute, Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, tested whether cell phone transmissions could alter a person's brainwaves. The researchers monitored the brainwaves of 120 healthy men and women while a Nokia 6110 cell phone&mdashone of the most popular cell phones in the world&mdashwas strapped to their head. A computer controlled the phone's transmissions in a double-blind experimental design, which meant that neither the test subject nor researchers knew whether the cell phone was transmitting or idle while EEG data were collected. The data showed that when the cell phone was transmitting, the power of a characteristic brain-wave pattern called alpha waves in the person's brain was boosted significantly. The increased alpha wave activity was greatest in brain tissue directly beneath to the cell phone, strengthening the case that the phone was responsible for the observed effect.
Alpha Waves of Brain
Alpha waves fluctuate at a rate of eight to 12 cycles per second (Hertz). These brainwaves reflect a person's state of arousal and attention. Alpha waves are generally regarded as an indicator of reduced mental effort, "cortical idling" or mind wandering. But this conventional view is perhaps an oversimplification. Croft, for example, argues that the alpha wave is really regulating the shift of attention between external and internal inputs. Alpha waves increase in power when a person shifts his or her consciousness of the external world to internal thoughts they also are the key brainwave signatures of sleep.
Cell Phone Insomnia
If cell phone signals boost a person's alpha waves, does this nudge them subliminally into an altered state of consciousness or have any effect at all on the workings of their mind that can be observed in a person's behavior? In the second study, James Horne and colleagues at the Loughborough University Sleep Research Centre in England devised an experiment to test this question. The result was surprising. Not only could the cell phone signals alter a person's behavior during the call, the effects of the disrupted brain-wave patterns continued long after the phone was switched off.
"This was a completely unexpected finding," Horne told me. "We didn't suspect any effect on EEG [after switching off the phone]. We were interested in studying the effect of mobile phone signals on sleep itself." But it quickly became obvious to Horne and colleagues in preparing for the sleep-research experiments that some of the test subjects had difficulty falling asleep.
Horne and his colleagues controlled a Nokia 6310e cell phone&mdashanother popular and basic phone&mdashattached to the head of 10 healthy but sleep-deprived men in their sleep research lab. (Their sleep had been restricted to six hours the previous night.) The researchers then monitored the men's brainwaves by EEG while the phone was switched on and off by remote computer, and also switched between "standby," "listen" and "talk" modes of operation for 30 minute intervals on different nights. The experiment revealed that after the phone was switched to "talk" mode a different brain-wave pattern, called delta waves (in the range of one to four Hertz), remained dampened for nearly one hour after the phone was shut off. These brainwaves are the most reliable and sensitive marker of stage two sleep&mdashapproximately 50 percent of total sleep consists of this stage&mdashand the subjects remained awake twice as long after the phone transmitting in talk mode was shut off. Although the test subjects had been sleep-deprived the night before, they could not fall asleep for nearly one hour after the phone had been operating without their knowledge.
Although this research shows that cell phone transmissions can affect a person's brainwaves with persistent effects on behavior, Horne does not feel there is any need for concern that cell phones are damaging. The arousal effects the researchers measured are equivalent to about half a cup of coffee, and many other factors in a person's surroundings will affect a night's sleep as much or more than cell phone transmissions.
"The significance of the research," he explained, is that although the cell phone power is low, "electromagnetic radiation can nevertheless have an effect on mental behavior when transmitting at the proper frequency." He finds this fact especially remarkable when considering that everyone is surrounded by electromagnetic clutter radiating from all kinds of electronic devices in our modern world. Cell phones in talk mode seem to be particularly well-tuned to frequencies that affect brainwave activity. "The results show sensitivity to low-level radiation to a subtle degree. These findings open the door by a crack for more research to follow. One only wonders if with different doses, durations, or other devices, would there be greater effects?"
Croft of Swinburne emphasizes that there are no health worries from these new findings. "The exciting thing about this research is that it allows us to have a look at how you might modulate brain function and this [look] tells us something about how the brain works on a fundamental level." In other words, the importance of this work is in illuminating the fundamental workings of the brain-scientists can now splash away with their own self-generated electromagnetic waves and learn a great deal about how brainwaves respond and what they do.
Mind Matters is edited by Jonah Lehrer, the science writer behind the blog The Frontal Cortex and the book Proust was a Neuroscientist.
Nobody Knows Where Brainwaves Come From
Electric waves at the heart of neuroscience have no identifiable source.
Wub-wub-wub-wub. Brainwaves are electromagnetic proof that we are alive. Decades of research have shown that these pulses of electrical potential reflect events at the root of our impulses and thoughts. As such, they underlie one of humanity’s weightiest moral decisions: deciding whether or not a person is officially dead. If a person goes 30 minutes without producing brainwaves, even a functioning heartbeat can’t convince doctors they’re alive.
But as much as brainwaves loom in our understanding of the brain, not a single scientist has any idea where they come from.
At least one researcher, Michael X. Cohen, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behavior in the Netherlands, thinks it’s time to fix that. In an April op-ed in the journal Trends in Neurosciences, Cohen argued that the time has come for researchers to figure out what those brainwaves they’ve been recording for decades are really all about.
“This is maybe the most important question for neuroscience right now,” he said to Inverse, but he added that it will be a challenge to convince his colleagues that it matters at all.
Today, as Facebook races to read your brainwaves, roboticists use them to develop mind control systems, and cybersecurity experts race to protect yours from hackers, it’s clear that Cohen’s sense of urgency is justified.
What we do know about brainwaves is that when doctors stick silver chloride dots to a person’s scalp and hook the connected electrodes up to an electroencephalography (EEG) machine, the curves that appear on its screen represent the electrical activity inside our skulls. The German neuroscientist Hans Berger spotted the first type of brainwave — alpha waves — back in 1924.
Researchers soon discovered more of these strange oscillations. There’s the slow, powerful delta wave, which shows up when we’re in deep sleep. There’s the low spikes of the theta wave, whose functions remain largely mysterious. Faster and even stranger is the gamma wave, which some researchers suspect plays a role in consciousness.
These waves are at the root of our understanding of the shape and structure of human thought, as well as the methods doctors use to figure out how brains break down. It’s thought that alpha waves, for example, are a sign the brain is inhibiting certain mental systems to free up bandwidth for other tasks, like sleeping or imagining. But where does it come from in the first place?
So far, there’s been no satisfactory answer to this question, but Cohen is determined to find it.
As one of the world’s leading researchers on the brain’s electrical activity, he hooks people up to EEG machines to figure out how their brains behave when they see a bird, think through a complex decision, or feel sad. But Cohen is the first to admit that what’s lacking in his research is context. Not understanding how those patterns relate to the actual meat of the brain — neurons firing or not firing, getting excited, or shutting down — leaves a huge mystery right at the center of brainwave neuroscience, he says.
“Over time it started bothering me more and more,” Cohen told Inverse. “There’s so much complexity going on at smaller spatial scales, and we have literally no fucking clue how to get from this big spatial scale to this smaller spatial scale.”
Part of the reason why it’s so hard to understand neuroscience research in the context of the brain, Cohen explains, is because neuroscientists themselves work in discrete, isolated sub-fields based on how big a chunk of the brain they study. Researchers studying the brain at the smallest level peel open individual neurons and watch the proteins inside them fold. Microcircuit neuroscientists map out the connections between neurons. Cohen zooms out a little further, connecting electrical patterns and human thought, rarely concerning himself with single cells or small groups of neurons.
But as we begin to fully grasp how complex the brain really is, Cohen says, it’s increasingly imperative to find a way to bridge the research that happens at the macro and micro scales. Finally understanding brainwaves, he says, could be the key to doing so.
That’s because brainwaves pulse at every single level of the brain, from the tiniest neuron to the entire 3-pound organ. “If you’re recording from just one neuron, you’ll see oscillations,” Cohen says, using the scientific term for wobbling brainwaves.
“If you’re recording from a small ensemble of neurons, you’ll see them. And if you’re recording from tens of millions of neurons, you’ll see oscillations.”
For Cohen, brainwaves are the common thread that can unify neuroscience. But the problem is, most research deals only with the electrical activity produced from tens of millions of neurons at a time, which is the highest resolution a typical EEG machine can capture without needlessly cutting into an innocent study subject’s head. The problem is that this big, rough EEG research in humans isn’t very compatible with the intricate, neuron-scale research done in lab rats. Consequently, we have plenty of information about the brain’s parts but no understanding of how they work together as a whole.
“It’s the difference between ‘What do Americans like?’ and ‘What does any individual American like?’” Cohen said. “And that’s a huge difference — between what any individual does and what you can say as a generality about an entire culture.”
While we know that all that electrical activity is the result of charged chemicals sloshing around in our brains in rhythmic, patterned waves, that doesn’t tell us anything about the most important question: Why they’re generated in the first place.
“The problem with these answers is that they’re totally meaningless from a neuroscience perspective,” Cohen says. “These answers tell you about how it’s physically possible, how the universe is constructed such that we can make these measurements. But there’s a totally different question, which is, what do these measurements mean? What do they tell us about the kinds of computations that are taking place in the brain? And that’s a huge explanatory gap.”
There are a few ways to bridge that gap. Scientists like those at the Blue Brain Project in Switzerland are trying to do so by building a computerized brain simulation that’s detailed enough to include the whole organ, as well as individual neurons, which they hope can reveal a kind of cell activity that would cause different kinds of common EEG patterns to appear. The one huge challenge to this approach, however, is that there’s no computer that can simulate a brain’s computations in real time just a millisecond of one neuron’s time in a simulation can take 10 seconds of real-world time for a computer to figure out. It’s certainly possible, but doing so would cost billions of dollars.
Cohen’s plan, which relies on real-world experiments, is much simpler.
Since you can’t cut open a human brain and start sticking electrodes in there to record activity (even in “human rights-challenged places,” Cohen says), he’s relying on rodents instead. But what makes his work different is that he’s hooking those rodents up to EEG machines, which researchers don’t usually do. “They say, why are you wasting your time recording EEG from rats? EEG is for when you don’t have access to the brain, so you record from outside,” he says.
But rodents have brainwaves, too, and their data can provide much-needed insight into how to bridge the neuron-brainwave divide. His experiments will create two huge data sets that researchers can cross-reference to figure out how neuron function and EEG behavior relate to one another. With the help of some deep-learning algorithms, they’ll then pore over that data to build a map of how individual sparks of neural activity add up to recognizable brainwaves. If Cohen’s experiments are very successful, his team will be able to look at a rodent’s EEG and predict — with what he hopes is more than 98 percent accuracy — exactly how the neural circuits are behaving in its brain.
“I think we’re not that far away from breakthroughs. Some of these kinds of questions are not so difficult to answer, it’s just that no one has really looked,” he said. But he admits that he’s worried that the segmentation of neuroscience research will get in the way of this whole-brain approach.
“So this is very terrifying for me and also very difficult, because I have very little experience in the techniques that i think are necessary,” he said.
Having to admit on his grant applications that his work would employ unfamiliar techniques he has never used made it difficult to get funding, but Cohen ultimately received a grant from the European Union. Now, with the aid of a lab fully staffed with experts in rodent brains, Cohen is ready to get to work.
Soon enough, we might finally get some answers to one of the oldest and strangest mysteries in neuroscience: where all those wub-wubs really come from and what they really mean.
If you’re interested in learning more about the mysteries of brain science, Inverse reporter Rafi Letzter has proposed a South by Southwest panel, “Peering into the Black Box of the Brain,” where he will discuss these with leading neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, and psychologists. You can vote for it on SXSW’s panelpicker website here.
Can Humans Sense Magnetic Fields?
Mar 19, 2019
C reatures from migratory eels and other fish species to insects to birds tap into the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate, sometimes many thousands of miles. But so far, evidence has been scant for any such magnetic sense in humans. Now, research suggests that some people do indeed perceive magnetic fields, albeit unconsciously. In response to a changing magnetic field, so-called alpha brainwaves, the background “hum” of the brain, quieted in human volunteers, scientists reported yesterday (March 18) in eNeuro.
“This is the first very clear evidence and strong evidence for the ability of human beings to detect and transduce the earth’s magnetic field,” says Eric Warrant, a neuroethologist at Lund University in Sweden who was not part of the work. “It’s extremely carefully controlled,” notes Warrant, as the authors methodically monitored for confounding effects and potential sources of artifacts.
In the past, researchers looked for magnetoreception in humans by focusing on people’s behavior. For instance, one group in the 1980s reported human magnetoreception in tests of blindfolded people who supposedly oriented themselves based on the magnetic field, but the results were never replicated, says Michael Winklhofer, a biophysicist at University of Oldenburg who was not involved with the work.
In the new study, scientists from Caltech and collaborators went beyond probing behavior by using EEG to watch the brain’s response to a changing magnetic field. The researchers built a cube that shielded unwanted electromagnetic radiation. There, the study’s participants sat alone in darkness and quiet for an hour, wearing EEG caps that allowed the scientists to eavesdrop on their brains as they manipulated the magnetic field in the cube.
The experimental conditions mimic how a person might typically experience the Earth’s magnetic field, says Issac Hilburn, a researcher at Caltech and one of the papers authors. The laboratory field was similar in strength to the Earth’s and the researchers moved it slowly to simulate how the field would change when turning one’s head.
“If we don’t have it, we would need to explain why we lost it. . . . What we’re saying in this particular paper is we haven’t lost it.”
For some patterns of magnetic field motion, the researchers noticed a dip in the amplitude of their participants’ brains’ alpha-band oscillations, or alpha waves, which have a frequency of about 8 to 13 hertz. Alpha waves are always present, but are more prominent when at rest. “You can think of [the alpha waves] as a measure of how engaged or unengaged the population of neurons in the human brain are with tasks,” Hilburn explains.
When the field was downward oriented and swept counterclockwise, the scientists observed a significant decrease in the alpha wave amplitude when they pooled the data from 26 subjects for analysis. In some people, the amplitude of their brain’s rhythm dropped by up to 60 percent over hundreds of milliseconds before returning to normal. “I was just blown away. I didn’t think we’d ever find anything this clear cut and quantifiable and reproducible,” says Hilburn, who admits he was somewhat skeptical at the project’s outset.
Study coauthor Joseph Kirschvink, a geobiologist at Caltech, interprets the dip in the alpha waves as the brain “freaking out” upon realizing that the magnetic field has moved while the body didn’t. But not all conditions elicited the change.
When the researchers moved the field while it was oriented up—opposite the relevant orientation for the northern hemisphere where the experiments took place—they didn’t observe a drop-off in the alpha waves. Nor did they see a response when the field was pointed down and rotated clockwise. “We don’t know why that is,” says Winklhofer, but notes that since this motion doesn’t trigger the shift in brainwaves like its opposite, “it’s most unlikely to represent an artifact” produced by the electronics.
“The sense is there,” says Kirschvink. The question is, how does it work? “It demands that there are receptor cells, most likely with little crystals of magnetite in them conveying this information to the brain,” he says. Because the polarity of the field mattered, the results rule out other mechanisms such as electrical induction or a so-called quantum compass, by which molecules excited by light interact with the Earth’s magnetic field, according to the authors.
See “A Panoply of Animal Senses”
It makes sense, as magnetic sensory systems seem to occur in virtually all organisms, says Kirschvink. “If we don’t have it, we would need to explain why we lost it. . . . What we’re saying in this particular paper is we haven’t lost it.”
And perhaps there are cultures today in which people haven’t entirely lost touch with a magneto-sense. Both Winklhofer and Kirschvink point to Aboriginal peoples in Australia who are known for their ability to orient in the desert and whose language references cardinal directions (North, South, East, and West) rather than relative ones (right, left, forward, and backward). “It would be super interesting if these cultures have a magnetic sense which is not so deeply buried,” says Winklhofer, who has collaborated with Kirschvink in the past.
The authors acknowledge that their results will be controversial, especially in the realm of neuroscience. But that’s why other independent groups should try to replicate their results, they say.
To ensure against cherry picking their results, the scientists automated their workflow for data analysis. For controls, the scientists used sham exposures that lacked their applied magnetic field while still flowing electricity through the coils that usually generate the field to create any heat or noise the coils would ordinarily produce. These controls didn’t prompt a significant change in participants’ alpha waves. “With regards to the experimental paradigm, it’s a tour de force of rigor and of experimental clarity,” says Warrant.
Moreover, Kirschvink and his colleagues say they have already replicated the field-sensing effects through similar tests with volunteers in Japan and will report them in a future paper. The team is now looking for telltale behavioral signs, for instance reflexive eye movements, that could further confirm that humans sense the magnetic field. “If we can find something along those lines, [that would] probably establish human magnetoreception on a whole other level,” says Connie Wang, one of the paper’s authors and a PhD student at Caltech in the lab of Shinsuke Shimojo.
There’s still a lot of work to do probe the magnetic sense and figure out its biology. “My feeling is this is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Kirschvink. But his sense is that “the brain is evolved over half a billion years to pull out information from the magnetic field just like any other sensory system.”
EEG Shows Different Brain Waves in ADHD Subtypes
Using an electroencephalogram (EEG) &mdash a test that measures electrical activity in the brain &mdash researchers are able to tell whether a person with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has the inattentive or hyperactive subtype, according to a new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
For the study, teens between the ages of 12 and 17 were asked to perform computer tasks that involved perceiving a visual stimulus that would then trigger brain regions involved in decision-making, which then led to physical action &mdash in this case, pressing a button.
Researchers found that the 17 participants that were predominantly diagnosed with the inattentive (IA) subtype of ADHD had the least amount of alpha wave suppression &mdash necessary to filter out visual &ldquonoise&rdquo in order to make an accurate decision.
On the other hand, the 17 participants diagnosed with the combined subtypes (CB) &mdash those with symptoms of both inattention and impulsivity/hyperactivity &mdash had the least amount of beta wave suppression, suggesting that these teens had the most trouble with the motor task.
Ali Mazaheri, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, and colleagues at the University of California Davis noted growing research showing that alpha wave activity can be adjusted and enhanced through rhythmic transcranial magnetic stimulation or transcranial alternating stimulation.
The teens&rsquo brain waves were evaluated with EEG caps with 32 electrodes. Some cues were more helpful than others, so the task required the participants to occasionally override an initial impulse in order to make a correct response. Such situations are particularly challenging for people with ADHD, said the researchers.
The findings showed that the 23 typically developing (TD) teens had the quickest response times and the most correct responses compared with the other two groups. The CB group had the lowest number of correct answers and the slowest response times. And both the TD and IA groups had significantly faster reaction times than the CB group.
Researchers found that these differences among the groups correlated with different brain waves patterns, suggesting that these groups have distinct physiological profiles.
Researchers found similar results regarding beta wave changes in the brain&rsquos motor cortex.
The greatest amount of beta suppression occurred in the TD group while the CB group had the least amount of beta suppression. The difference between the IA and CB groups was not significant.
&ldquoOur study suggests differential impairment profiles in the ADHD subtypes, and not simply an additive effect of impairments in the ADHD combined subtype,&rdquo said co-author Catherine Fassbender, Ph.D., a research scientist with the UC Davis MIND Institute, in a statement.
&ldquoThe inattentive group had problems processing the cues, whereas the combined type had problems using the cues to prepare a motor response,&rdquo she said.
4. Delta Brain Waves
Delta Brain waves are present with a frequency range from 0.2hz – 3hz . Delta waves are emitted during deep and during dreamless sleep when there is unconsciousness. Delta is the slowest band of brainwaves. You do not dream in this state and are completely unconscious. 4
Benefits Of Delta Brainwaves
- The delta state releases anti-aging hormones, including melatonin and DHEA.
- Human growth hormone (HGH) is another anti-aging hormone that is increased when delta brainwaves are occurring inside the brain, due to the stimulation of the pituitary gland. HGH maintains the skin, bone density, cartilage, joints and can also help heal physical pain.
Necessary tools and machines
As a kid I always wanted to have a special ability, like moving objects with thoughts or flying. I tried to move objects with “the power of my mind” of course with no success. Well, yes, I was and I am a huge Star Wars fan, but I also like electronics and programming, so why not combine these two things to build an incredible project?
You can find all parts, codes and libraries with links at the Hardware and Software section.
The main concept is that using different brainwaves the user will be able to control a robot, the cursor on his PC or turn on/off lights in his home, while a microcontroller (Particle Photon) creates an online analyzing about the user’s brainwaves. This is a perfect method to detect diseases or stress and sleepy statement. This also can be used to help people live better their life, learn to control their emotions and how to be always happy. The human brain needs balance, to be healthly, we should sleep, think, move. Using the Particle Photon and the webserver created by the founders of the Particle we can help people to find their natural brain-balance. A childhood dream guided me to this project, and I'm very happy that I made it.
But if we put Star Wars and the Force away for a bit, this device is not only for lazy people or for fans, it’s made to give back an ability for people who are fighting each day with their disability. The robot that I designed works the same way as a wheelchair, the home automation system would help for the user to control lights or TV-s even if he/she can’t move. The PC controller mode can be useful even for those who is perfectly healthly. I think all of us wants to play computer games or just surf on the internet using only thoughts.
Watch this short introduiction video about the story of the project:
Would you like to build your own? Here I’ll explain everything that you should know for this project. I share codes, schematics and this detailed instruction, so warm up your soldering iron…
The Science Behind the Project
Electroencephalography (EEG) is an electrophysiological monitoring method to record electrical activity of the brain. It is typically noninvasive, with the electrodesplaced along the scalp, although invasive electrodes are sometimes used in specific applications. EEG measures voltage fluctuations resulting from ionic current within the neurons of the brain. Diagnostic applications generally focus on the spectral content of EEG, that is, the type of neural oscillations (popularly called "brain waves") that can be observed in EEG signals. (thank you Wikipedia ) But we're going to use two very accurate values
- is the frequency range from 7 Hz to 14 Hz. It emerges with closing of the eyes and with relaxation, and attenuates with eye opening or mental exertion. is the frequency range from 15 Hz to about 30 Hz. Low amplitude beta with multiple and varying frequencies is often associated with active, busy or anxious thinking and active concentration.
I used four microcontrollers to bring this project to life: an Arduino Mega, an Arduino Leonardo, an UNO and a Particle Photon. The Mega is the brain of the project that receives signals from the headset, analyzes then forwards commands to the other devices. Transmits every data forward to the Photon that creates the webserver. The Leonardo controls the mouse on a PC and the Uno is used to receive IR (infrared signals) and controls the robot. As I said the device is able to control three different things (or more if you want to program anything else). Now I’ll call these three different things channels. The device switches between these channels if you close your eyes:
- Close your eyes for 1-2 seconds: switches to home automation featurette
- Close your eyes for 2-4 seconds: switches to robot controller mode
- Close your eyes for 1-6 seconds: switches to mouse controller mode
I used relays to make the home automation featurette you can connect anything to them: TV, light bulbs, wall outlets anything you want
The wireless headset:
I love hacking toys so I bought a brainwave sensing toy called Necomimi, that is able to move its ears depending on your brainwaves (attention, meditation). This is the most useless toy that I’ve ever saw, but there’s inside a small chip that reads brainwaves, filters noise and gives a very good signal. Works with UART (Serial) interface, so with some hacking we can use Arduinos to read brainwaves. The role of this headset is to transmit brainwaves wirelessly to the central server. Nobody wants cables on his head so I created this comfortable and user friendly headset.
Go down to see how to take apart and make a wireless Bluetooth headset out of it.
We have two measurable eSense values (NeuroSky values): meditation from 0 to 100 and attention from 0 to 100. The more focused you are, the higher the attention value becomes. The more relaxed you are, the higher the meditation level becomes.
The system is working with thoughts, nothing else is needed only learn how to be focused or relaxed. After a week of experimenting I was able to control my "attention" value very accurate. I can set my attention level consciously to about 15, or 39, 65 and 90. You have to find out how to control your values, we are all different. It w orked very well with emotions. Thinking on love, friendship, anger or fear gives a very good contrast in the values.
To power up the system plug a micro USB cable in the Arduino Leonardo. This will also control your mouse (if you want) and ensures 5 volts and 500mA for the system.
Controlling the Home Automation System
If you are switched to home automation mode increase your attention level upper than 70 to turn on first relay , increase meditation level upper than 70 to turn on second relay , and increase both of them upper than 70 to turn on third relay . It's a bit tricky but isn't imposible after some mind-training. If is already turned on, use the same command to turn it off (so if is turned on reach again 70 to turn it off). When the system is done you can connect any high-voltage device (light, TV, PC, cooler fan, anything you want) to the relay module.
Controlling the Mouse
The cursor is controlled with emotions. If attention level is under 25 moves left , if is between 25 and 50 moves right , if is between 50 and 75 moves up and if is between 75 and 100 moves down . You can click by increasing meditation level. As I said before the attention level can be easily controlled with emotions (for me).
Controlling the Robot
The robot has only three different statements: stop, turn left, and move forward. Why only two movement options? Because these two directions are enough to move the robot anywhere you want. Use your meditation level to spin with the robot, and when you reached the direction where you want to move stop the robot then move forward with the attention level . It's a better method to control the robot and even beginners, who can't control their attention/meditation values so good, can play with this robot.
This is an older picture about my plan, but succeeded so I’m very happy with the results. The headset transmits BT (Bluetooth) signals to the Arduino Mega that analyzes the incoming bytes and depending on the user’s thought controls the different features. It was very hard to find out the best ways to transmit this lot of data, but I choose Bluetooth instead of WiFi. At first time I wanted use the Particle Photon as a data transmitter, but that little guy got a better role in the making of the webserver. That was the biggest modification in the whole project. (On the picture you can see the actual plan). I used homemade Arduino modules , because I love design my own circuits. You can buy these modules online if you want or build yourself with me.
A half year of learning and experimenting
I worked a lot on this project and yes, I started almost half year ago, but with the Photon things accelerated. It was very easy to use their dashboard. By the way there are many tutorials on the internet how to hack EEG toys, that helped me a bit, but they didn't have any extra functions. So I decided that I'll hack this Necomimi toy and using my creativity I created this device that has much more features than blinking a LED. Hope you'll enjoy!
Let’s get started!
We want to modify this EEG toy to transmit data via Bluetooth so first take apart the case. The screws are under the sticker. Remove the sticker and the back of the device and you’ll find inside a small circuit. The one that is under the main circuit is the Neurosky TGAM chip. This is connected with four header pins to the main microcontroller board so take a soldering iron and remove this circuit carefully. Now solder three wires to the GND-pin to the VCC-pin and to the T-pin. The T-pin is the transmitter pin with 57600 baud rate, this sends data packets to our microcontroller, but I connected this directly to a HC-06 slave BT module . The HC-06 is set to 9600 baud rate but don’t worry we’ll fix this problem. If you soldered the three wires to the you can build in your own rechargeable power source. I used a 500mAh Li-Ion battery, a USB charger circuit, a 5v step up circuit and two resistors (100 ohm and 200 ohm) to ensure a perfect 3.4 volt power supply for the chip and for the Bluetooth module. Follow the schematic to build the circuit that is needed in the headset. If the circuit is done configure the Bluetooth module.
About the chip:
Getting to Know the 5 Frequencies
Throughout the day your brain will utilise certain waves to process certain situations. For example, if you’re in a meeting with a business partner, chances are you’re exhibiting higher levels of Beta and Gamma waves. If you’re fast asleep and mid-REM cycle, you’ll be exhibiting higher levels of Delta and Theta waves. It’s important to know that your brain never ceases to use a certain brain wave, in fact research shows that even during the deepest of memory-storing REM sleep, the brain demonstrates Gamma wave use. This is a particularly interesting field of neuro-research at present.
Delta waves are associated with deep levels of relaxation and restorative sleep, to remember this simply think of ‘Delta’ for ‘Deep’. They are the slowest recorded brain waves in humans and higher levels are more commonly found in young children. During the aging process, lower Delta waves are produced. Research tells us that Delta waves are attributed to many of our unconscious bodily functions such as regulating the cardiovascular and the digestive systems. Healthy levels of Delta waves can contribute to a more restful sleep, allowing us to wake up refreshed, however irregular delta wave activity has been linked to learning difficulties or issues maintaining awareness.
Frequency range : 0 Hz to 4 Hz
High levels : Brain injuries, learning problems, inability to think, severe ADHD
Low levels : Inability to rejuvenate body, inability to revitalize the brain, poor sleep
Optimal range : Healthy immune system, restorative REM sleep
Theta waves known as the ‘suggestible waves’, because of their prevalence when one is in a trance or hypnotic state. In this state, a brain’s Theta waves are optimal and the patient is more susceptible to hypnosis and associated therapy. The reasoning for this is that Theta waves are commonly found when you daydream or are asleep, thus exhibiting a more relaxed, open mindstate. Theta waves are also linked to us experiencing and feeling deep and raw emotions, therefore too much theta activity may make people prone to bouts of depression. Theta does however has its benefits of helping improve our creativity, wholeness and intuition, making us feel more natural. It is also involved in restorative sleep and as long as theta isn’t produced in excess during our waking hours, it is a very helpful brainwave range.
Frequency range : 4 Hz to 8 Hz
High levels : ADHD or hyperactivity, depressive states, impulsive activity or inattentiveness
Low levels : Anxiety symptoms, poor emotional awareness, higher stress levels
Optimal range : Maximum creativity, deep emotional connection with oneself and others, greater intuition, relaxation
Alpha waves are the ‘frequency bridge’ between our conscious thinking (Beta) and subconscious (Theta) mind. They are known to help calm you down and promote feelings of deeper relaxation and content. Beta waves play an active role in network coordination and communication and do not occur until three years of age in humans. In a state of stress, a phenomenon called ‘Alpha blocking’ can occur which involves excessive Beta activity and little Alpha activity. In this scenario, the Beta waves restrict the production of alpha because we because our body is reacting positively to the increased Beta activity, usually in a state of heightened cognitive arousal.
Frequency range : 8 Hz to 12 Hz
High levels : Too much daydreaming, over-relaxed state or an inability to focus
Low levels : OCD, anxiety symptoms, higher stress levels
Optimal range : Ideal relaxation
Beta waves are the high frequency waves most commonly found in awake humans. They are channeled during conscious states such as cognitive reasoning, calculation, reading, speaking or thinking. Higher levels of Beta waves are found to channel a stimulating, arousing effect, which explains how the brain will limit the amount of Alpha waves if heightened Beta activity occurs. However, if you experience too much Beta activity, this may lead to stress and anxiety. This leads you feeling overwhelmed and stressed during strenuous periods of work or school. Beta waves increased by drinking common stimulants such as caffeine or L-Theanine, or by consuming Nootropics or cognitive enhancers such as Lucid. Think of Beta as the ‘get shit done’ state of mind.
Frequency range : 12 Hz to 40 Hz
High levels : Anxiety, inability to feel relaxed, high adrenaline levels, stress
Low levels : Depression, poor cognitive ability, lack of attention
Optimal range : Consistent focus, strong memory recall, high problem solving ability
Gamma waves are a more recent discovery in the field of neuroscience, thus the understanding of how they function is constantly evolving. To date, it’s known that Gamma waves are involved in processing more complex tasks in addition to healthy cognitive function. Gamma waves are found to be important for learning, memory and processing and they are used as a binding tool for our senses to process new information. In people with mental disabilities, much lower levels of Gamma activity is recorded. More recently, people have found a strong link between meditation and Gamma waves, a link attributed to the heightened state of being or ‘completeness’ experienced when in a meditative state.
Frequency range : 40 Hz to 100 Hz
High levels : Anxiety, stress
Low levels : Depression, ADHD, learning issues
Optimal range : Information processing, cognition, learning, binding of senses
What Does Muse Do?
Muse has been tested and validated against EEG systems that are exponentially more expensive, and it’s used by neuroscientists around the world in real-world neuroscience research inside and outside the lab. Using 7 finely calibrated sensors – 2 on the forehead, 2 behind the ears plus 3 reference sensors – Muse is a next-generation, state of the art EEG system that uses advanced algorithms to train beginner and intermediate meditators at controlling their focus. It teaches users how to manipulate their brain states and how to change the characteristics of their brains.
The Muse algorithm technology is more complex than traditional neurofeedback. In creating the Muse app, we started from these brainwaves and then spent years doing intensive research on higher-order combinations of primary, secondary, and tertiary characteristics of raw EEG data and how they interact with focused-attention meditation.
It’s important to note that a lot of people confuse what the Muse app measures with traditional neurofeedback (which focuses on training individual frequencies), but it doesn’t map individual frequencies – it uses a unique and complex combination of the various brainwaves in order to provide results such as calm, active, and neutral states.
Brain waves and meditation
Forget about crystals and candles, and about sitting and breathing in awkward ways. Meditation research explores how the brain works when we refrain from concentration, rumination and intentional thinking. Electrical brain waves suggest that mental activity during meditation is wakeful and relaxed.
"Given the popularity and effectiveness of meditation as a means of alleviating stress and maintaining good health, there is a pressing need for a rigorous investigation of how it affects brain function," says Professor Jim Lagopoulos of Sydney University, Australia. Lagopoulos is the principal investigator of a joint study between his university and researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) on changes in electrical brain activity during nondirective meditation.
Constant brain waves
Whether we are mentally active, resting or asleep, the brain always has some level of electrical activity. The study monitored the frequency and location of electrical brain waves through the use of EEG (electroencephalography). EEG electrodes were placed in standard locations of the scalp using a custom-made hat
Participants were experienced practitioners of Acem Meditation, a nondirective method developed in Norway. They were asked to rest, eyes closed, for 20 minutes, and to meditate for another 20 minutes, in random order. The abundance and location of slow to fast electrical brain waves (delta, theta, alpha, beta) provide a good indication of brain activity.
Relaxed attention with theta
During meditation, theta waves were most abundant in the frontal and middle parts of the brain.
"These types of waves likely originate from a relaxed attention that monitors our inner experiences. Here lies a significant difference between meditation and relaxing without any specific technique," emphasizes Lagopoulos.
"Previous studies have shown that theta waves indicate deep relaxation and occur more frequently in highly experienced meditation practitioners. The source is probably frontal parts of the brain, which are associated with monitoring of other mental processes."
"When we measure mental calm, these regions signal to lower parts of the brain, inducing the physical relaxation response that occurs during meditation."
Silent experiences with alpha
Alpha waves were more abundant in the posterior parts of the brain during meditation than during simple relaxation. They are characteristic of wakeful rest.
"This wave type has been used as a universal sign of relaxation during meditation and other types of rest," comments Professor Øyvind Ellingsen from NTNU. "The amount of alpha waves increases when the brain relaxes from intentional, goal-oriented tasks.This is a sign of deep relaxation, -- but it does not mean that the mind is void."
Neuroimaging studies by Malia F. Mason and co-workers at Dartmouth College NH suggest that the normal resting state of the brain is a silent current of thoughts, images and memories that is not induced by sensory input or intentional reasoning, but emerges spontaneously "from within."
"Spontaneous wandering of the mind is something you become more aware of and familiar with when you meditate," continues Ellingsen, who is an experienced practitioner. "This default activity of the brain is often underestimated. It probably represents a kind of mental processing that connects various experiences and emotional residues, puts them into perspective and lays them to rest."
Different from sleep
Delta waves are characteristic of sleep. There was little delta during the relaxing and meditative tasks, confirming that nondirective meditation is different from sleep.
Beta waves occur when the brain is working on goal-oriented tasks, such as planning a date or reflecting actively over a particular issue. EEG showed few beta waves during meditation and resting.
"These findings indicate that you step away from problem solving both when relaxing and during meditation," says Ellingsen.
Nondirective versus concentration
Several studies indicate better relaxation and stress management by meditation techniques where you refrain from trying to control the content of the mind.
"These methods are often described as nondirective, because practitioners do not actively pursue a particular experience or state of mind. They cultivate the ability to tolerate the spontaneous wandering of the mind without getting too much involved. Instead of concentrating on getting away from stressful thought and emotions, you simple let them pass in an effortless way."
Take home message
Nondirective meditation yields more marked changes in electrical brain wave activity associated with wakeful, relaxed attention, than just resting without any specific mental technique.