MindMods Blog

  1. What is Brain Plasticity?

    Discussion on brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity, has increased during the past several years. What is it and why should we be concerned about it? Our brains can migrate activity associated with specific functions to a different location as a result of neuroplasticity. This is an extremely important ability to have after a brain injury or even after normal experience (such as aging). Neuroplasticity allows the brain to re-wire itself as a response to changes in the environment. It is also what is behind the learning process and memory formation.

    Plasticity consists of laying out preferred pathways within the brain for circulating important information and is the brain's ability to adapt.


    Biofeedback/neurofeedback may play an important role in the future if specific operant condition techniques can be designed to increase voluntary control of neuron responses that will increase neuroplasticity.

    Neuroplasticity from Wikipedia

    Here is a link to a great audio interview from CBC radio with Dr. Norman Doidge. He is the author of "The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science".

  2. Free Access to a Variety of Neuroscience and Neurology Journals From Sage Pub.

    Free access to:

    Journal of Biological Rhythms

    The Neuroscientist

    Journal of Child Neurology

    Multiple Sclerosis

    Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair

    Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology

    American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease & Other Dementias

    Click here (requires registration)

  3. Researchers use fMRI to Determine Brain Activation Location during Placebo Effect

    From NPR


    Tor Wagner from Columbia University (and colleagues) used an fMRI study to what parts of the brain are activated when patients experience the placebo effect.

    Click here to listen to an audio recording of Wagner discussion the team's findings.

  4. Video: Split Brain Behavioral Experiments

    The patient in the video had his corpus callosum removed in order to stop his seizures due to epilepsy. The procedure prevented the hemispheres from communicating with one another in any way and caused a sort of 'split consciousness'.

    To reduce the severity of his seizures, Joe had the bridge between his left and right cerebral hemisphers (the corpus callosum) severed. As a result, his left and right brains no longer communicate through that pathway. Here's what happens as a result:

  5. Video: Interesting Experiment - Richard Dawkins on the God Machine

    Michael Persinger is a neuropsychologist at Canada's Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. His theory is

    that the sensation described as "having a religious experience" is merely a side effect of our bicameral brain's

    feverish activities. He has attempted to create experiments to show that when the right hemisphere of the brain

    is stimulated in the cerebral region presumed to control notions of self, and then the left hemisphere is called

    upon to make sense of this nonexistent entity, the mind generates what is felt as a 'sensed presence.'


    Many of Persinger's studies detail the reactions that people have when their temporal lobes are stimulated with complex magnetic
    fields. Some of the subjects experience a 'sensed presence' in the form of the deity from the culture that they were raised in.
    They see the God (or spirits associated with their God - the Virgin Mary, Mohammed, etc) that they believe in. Others have had
    experiences that mimic the feeling that one would have during alien/UFO visitation - these people tend to be more agnostic.

    In 2003 the BBC arranged for Prof. Richard Dawkins to be a subject in one of Persinger's experiments.

    richard dawkins persinger god helmet 

    The results are shown in the video below:

  6. An article on Lucid Dreaming from the New York Times

    lucid dreaming consciousness unconsciousness  

    This was from yesterday's New York Times - an article called 'Living Your Dreams, in a Manner of Speaking'. It talks a little about the concept of lucid dreaming, but also focuses on a new movie being written and directed by Jake Paltrow called "The Good Night".

    the good night movie lucid dreaming 

    Living Your Dreams, in a Manner of Speaking

    Established sleep researchers say lucid dreaming is occasionally reported by subjects, though it is difficult to validate scientifically. “Yes, lucid dreaming exists,” said Dr. Rodney Radtke, the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Duke University. “Yes, people certainly can, within their dream, realize ‘this is just a dream’ and continue to participate.”


    “Do I believe that someone could potentially alter or interact with their dreams in such a way that they could change the dream? Yes,” he said. “Do I think that you could essentially design a dream — ‘Oh, I want to go to Honolulu and have this big hunk hit on me’? It’s a bit of a stretch. But I can’t say it can’t happen.”

    He added: “Only in New York or California do they worry about this stuff.”

    Stephen LaBerge, a psychophysiologist and the founder of the Lucidity Institute (lucidity.com), conducts lucid dream research and
    teaches people to do it.

    “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible,” Dr. LaBerge said. “Fly. Dream sex. That’s what everybody likes to do. There’s also the possibility of creative problem-solving, overcoming nightmares and anxieties, learning more about yourself.”

    A student at Stanford University, where Dr. LaBerge conducted much of his research, wrote in The Stanford Daily: “In one of my earliest experiences with lucidity, I announced to an auditorium full of people that I was their god (wasn’t I?). When they did not respond deferentially, I used telekinesis to send one of them flying across the room.”

    It can be particularly appealing to those who have nightmares, as it allows them to realize while still asleep that they are just dreaming.

    Interest in these potential real-world benefits and the otherworldly freedoms of lucid dreaming — as well as the questions it provokes about the precarious nature of reality — has spurred the invention and evolution of seemingly wacky dream aids. There are masks with lights and sounds; Orwellian devices that announce THIS IS A DREAM! in the middle of the night; and pills.

    At the Hawaii gathering next month, attendees will be able to check out Dr. LaBerge’s NovaDreamer, a mask meant to light up during REM sleep and cue the person entangled in the sheets that he or she is dreaming. It is based on the notion that people can make a plan while awake and then execute it in their dreams. A light or sound is meant to remind them of their goal of lucid dreaming without actually waking them up. Participants may also take part in experiments with an herbal version of a drug that impacts acetylcholine, a neurotransmitting compound that affects memory.

    As bizarre as these things may sound, there is a scientific rationale for cueing users during REM sleep. “REM-sleep dreams are much more visual,” said Matthew P. Walker, the director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former assistant professor of psychology at the Harvard Medical School. “They have a strong narrative that runs through them. They’re hallucinogenic.”

    There are several reasons for this, including that the lateral prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in logical reasoning and working memory, becomes more inactive during REM sleep, while other areas of the brain, like the visual and emotional centers, rev up.

    Scientists, however, are still trying to discover the difference between the dreaming brain and the lucid-dreaming brain. The leading candidate, Dr. Walker said, is the lateral prefrontal cortex. He thinks that during REM sleep, the activity level of this logic-oriented part of the brain begins to rise back to waking levels, and when it does, an invisible switch is flipped and the sleeper gains lucidity. “In the next five years, I think somebody will demonstrate that,” he said.

    Lucid-dream researchers say there are myriad mental exercises a person can do during waking hours to try to become cognizant while dreaming. One technique involves performing various reality checks many times a day — such as looking at the numbers on a watch, looking away, and then looking at them again to make sure that night has not suddenly become day. The theory is that if a person does this regularly while awake, he or she will likely repeat it while dreaming and will recognize inconsistencies — if, say, the watch is melting in a Dali-esque way. Then the sleeper will think: “This looks surreal. I must be dreaming.”

    more after the jump

    In “The Good Night,” the would-be lucid dreamer performs a series of reality checks: he flips a light switch on and off (light in dreams is not usually nuanced); looks in a mirror (reflections in dreams are often obscured); and stares at his hands (in dreams one’s hands may be elongated or have fewer fingers).

    Keeping a dream journal is also said to promote better recall and to train people to identify signs that indicate they are dreaming — chatting with the deceased, floating cars, talking skeletons. Again, the idea is that when people are sleeping, they will recognize these things as signs they are dreaming and they will become lucid.

    Waking up half an hour earlier than usual, staying awake for 30 to 60 minutes and then going back to sleep may also induce lucid dreams, Dr. LaBerge has found. Dr. LaBerge honed his own lucid-dreaming abilities by writing his dreams down immediately after waking and telling himself he intended to remember and recognize his dreams.

    Psychologists who study lucid dreaming do not know why some people need more help triggering full lucidity than others, though they agree that adept lucid dreamers are excellent at remembering dreams. Dr. Gackenbach said they tend to have strong visualization and spatial skills. They can look at a machine and envision how the parts work inside, she said, or sew a dress from scratch and know exactly what the finished frock will look like. Many practice meditation.

    Of course some professionals, particularly psychoanalysts, think orchestrating one’s dreams is not a critical goal.

    “We distinguish between the manifest content of the dream — the dream as you remember it — and the latent content of it,” said Dr. Edward Nersessian, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and a training and supervising psychoanalyst at the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. “Whatever you manage or do not manage to do with the manifest content isn’t really that relevant. That’s like a screen behind which lies all sorts of answers which you have to go digging for.”

    When then asked if lucid dreaming was a dangerous enterprise, he chuckled gently and said: “If people who do it think it calms their anxiety, I’m all for it.”

    go read the entire article here

  7. The passing of time in dreams - A study using Lucid Dreams


    The following is a study used lucid dreamers to determine the subjective measurement of time in dreams - by Daniel Erlacher and Michael
    Schredl from Germany.

    Time required for motor activity in lucid dreams


    Daniel Erlacher - Institute for Sport and Sport Science, University of Heidelberg, Germany

    Michael Schredl - Sleep laboratory, Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany




    The present study investigated the relationship between the required time for specific tasks (counting and performing squats) in lucid dreams and in the waking state. Five proficient lucid dreamers (26-34 years old, M = 29.8, SD = 3.0; one woman and four men) participated in this study. The results showed that the time needed for counting in a lucid dream is comparable to the time needed for counting in wakefulness, but motor activities required more time in lucid dreams than in the waking state.





    The relationship between subjectively estimated time in dreams and real time has intrigued scientists for centuries (cf. Hall, 1981). Maury (1861) reported a long and intense dream about the French revolution which ended with the dreamer in the guillotine and the sleeper waking up with a piece of his wooden bed top having fallen on his neck. Because of the logical line of dream action, Maury (1861) hypothesized that the dream was generated backwards by the arousing stimulus. Nowadays, the hypothesis is widely accepted that the subjectively experienced time in dreams corresponds with the actual time (overview: Schredl, 2000). This relationship was first experimentally demonstrated by Dement and Kleitman (1957). In this study, the participants were awakened in a random order either after 5 or 15 minutes of REM sleep. After awakening, participants were asked to estimate whether the elapsed sleep interval was 5 or 15 minutes. From 111 awakenings, 83 % judgments were correct. Furthermore, the elapsed time of the REM period correlated with the length of the dream report (from r=.40 to r=.71). The latter findings were replicated by Glaubman and Lewin (1977), as well as by Hobson and Stickgold (1995). Rosenlicht, Maloney, and Freiberg (1994) found only small differences between time of REM sleep and the reported length of dreams. Overall, these studies support the idea that dreams take the same amount of time the actions would take in waking.


    Lucid dreams might be particularly applicable to study time intervals in dreams, because lucid dreamers are able of executing prearranged tasks in their lucid dreams and mark the beginning and the end of the task with eye signals that can be measured objectively by electrooculogram (EOG) recording (cf. Erlacher, Schredl, & LaBerge, 2003). The term “lucid dream” designates a dream in which the dreamer, while dreaming, is aware that she or he is dreaming and she or he can consciously influence the action in the dream (Tholey & Utecht, 1997; LaBerge, 1985). In a pilot study, LaBerge (1985) showed that time intervals for counting from one to ten in lucid dreams (by counting from one-thousand-and-one to one-thousand-and-ten) are close to the time intervals for counting during wakefulness.


    We hypothesized, that there is no difference between the time needed for counting or performing a motor activity in a lucid dream and the time needed for the same activities performed in the waking state.


    more after the jump




    The participants were five lucid dreamers (26-34 years old, M=29.8, SD=3.0; one woman and four men). The four men participated in previous studies and the woman was recruited by an internet page (http://klartraum.de) about lucid dreaming provided by the first author. All participants had lucid dreams for many years ranging from 30 to 1,000 lucid dreams a year and were familiar with the method of signaling out of lucid dreams by means of characteristic, predetermined eye movements.


    The experimental protocol for the lucid dream task was as follows: (1) the lucid dreamers had to stand up in their lucid dreams, (2) they had to count from twenty-one to twenty-five, (3) then they had to perform ten squats (deep knee bends), and (4) finally, they had to count again from twenty-one to twenty-five. The lucid dreamers were instructed to mark the following events by left-right-left-right eye movements: the onset of lucidity, the beginning of each sequence (1-4) and the end of the lucid dream task. After a maximum of two successful tasks in one lucid dream, the participants had to wake themselves by the technique of focusing a fixed spot in the lucid dream described by Tholey (1983) and report a complete and precise dream immediately.


    The participants spent two to four nonconsecutive nights in a sleep laboratory. Sleep was recorded by means of the following standard procedures: EEG (C3-A2, C4-A1) Electrooculogram (EOG), submental EMG and ECG. Prior to the lab night, the participants were asked to carry out the lucid dream task in the waking state (including eye signaling measured by EOG recording). Participants were instructed to carry out the task in their lucid dreams exactly in the same way as they performed the task in wakefulness.


    In 15 nights, the participants succeeded in 11 lucid dreams to complete the lucid dream task 14 times. The participants completed the lucid dream task in different number of times. In three lucid dreams, the task was accomplished twice. Two intervals of counting and three intervals of performing squats were excluded from further analysis because the dreamer wasn’t able to follow the lucid dream protocol exactly. For the counting and the squatting intervals, the duration between the two left-right-left-right eye movements were determined and mean values for each participant were computed. For statistical analysis, two-sided t-tests for dependent samples were used to compare the durations of the counting and squatting intervals in the lucid dream and in the waking state.





    Mean durations and standard deviations for the counting and the squatting intervals are depicted in Table 1. No differences in the durations between counting in lucid dreams and in wakefulness were found for the first counting interval (d = 0.07, power = 0.07; t(4) = .15; p = .89) and the second counting interval (d = 0.26, power = 0.11; t(3) = .53; p = .64). However, a significant difference in the time duration was found for performing squats interval (d = 1.58, power = 0.89; t(4) = 3.54; p = .02).





    The study replicates the finding of LaBerge’s (1985) pilot study, that time intervals for counting were quite similar in lucid dreams and in wakefulness but performing squats required 44.5 % more time in lucid dreams than in the waking state. However, the second counting interval had an effect size d = .26, which is considered by Cohen (1988) as a small to medium effect size. Given to the small number of participants the power of the test was too low to detect a statistical significant difference. In contrast, the effect size for the squatting interval was large (d = 1.58), demonstrating that there is a difference between the required time needed to perform squats and to count in a lucid dream.


    A methodological issue in the present study is that the duration for the motor activity task was longer than for the counting task, therefore it might be possible that, in general, longer tasks cause more of a disproportionate time error than short tasks. To clarify, if longer task yield different durations in lucid dreams and in wakefulness, in further studies, different time intervals (e.g., counting 10 to 60 seconds) should be examined. Furthermore, subsequent studies should investigate what kind of factors causes the different time intervals by using tasks with different complexities (e.g., simple vs. complex movements).


    Even though the participants were instructed to carry out the squats in the same way as in the waking state, it is possible that the subjective time for the participants was different. To test this hypothesis in further studies, participants should be asked about the subjectively elapsed time they experienced in their lucid dreams (like Moiseeva, 1975).


    To conclude, the present findings, on one hand support the hypothesis of a correspondence between time durations in lucid dreams and in the waking state. On the other hand, the findings also demonstrate that motor activities, like performing squats, require more time in lucid dreams than in wakefulness. In future studies, different time intervals, different activities, and the generalizability of the present results to dreaming in general should be studied.


    * Cohen, J. (1988) Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    * Dement, W., & Kleitman, N. (1957) The relation of eye movements during sleep to dream activity: an objective method for the study of dreaming. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 53, 339-346.

    * Erlacher, D., Schredl, M., & LaBerge, S. (2003) Motor area activation during dreamed hand clenching: a pilot study on EEG alpha band. Sleep and Hypnosis, 5, 182-187.

    * Glaubman, H., & Lewin, I. (1977) REM and dreaming. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 44, 929-930.

    * Hall, C. S. (1981) Do we dream during sleep? Evidence for the Goblot hypothesis. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 53, 239-246.

    * Hobson, J. A., & Stickgold, R. (1995) The conscious state paradigm: a neurocognitive approach to waking, sleeping, and dreaming. In M. S. Gazzaniga (Ed.), The cognitive neurosciences. Cambridge: MIT Press. Pp 1373-1389.

    * LaBerge, S. (1985) Lucid dreaming. Los Angeles, CA: Tarcher.

    * Maury, A. (1861) Le sommeil et les reves. Paris: Didier.

    * Moiseeva, N. I. (1975) The characteristics of EEG activity and the subjective estimation of time during dreams of different structure. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 38, 569-577.

    * Rosenlicht, N., Maloney, T., & Freiberg, I. (1994) Dream report length is more dependent on arousal level than prior REM duration. Brain Research Bulletin, 34, 99-101.

    * Schredl, M. (2000) Body-mind interaction: dream content and REM sleep physiology. North American Journal of Psychology, 2, 59-70.

    * Tholey, P. (1983) Relation between dream content and eye movements tested by lucid dreams. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 56, 875-878.

    * Tholey, P., & Utecht, K. (1997) Schöpferisch Träumen. Der Klartraum als Lebenshilfe (3. ed.). Eschborn: Klotz.

  8. A Young Person's Guide to Brainwave Music

    Forty Years of Audio from the Human EEG

    This is a great article from the now defunct Canadian magazine 'HorizonZero'. The zine was a multimedia web magazine about digital art and culture in Canada. This article is from issue 15 published in 2004 - but this is the first time I've seen it. This article was written by Andrew Brouse.

    You can check out the other issues at http://www.horizonzero.ca

    brainwaves brainwave music 

    A Young Person's Guide to Brainwave Music
    Forty years of audio from the human EEG
    by Andrew Brouse

    It is mid-August 2003. In the midst of a sweltering heat wave, James Fung and other students of University of Toronto "Cyberman" professor Steve Mann are hectically preparing sophisticated electronic and computer technology for a unique sonic and visual event: an improvised collective musical piece created interactively from the brainwaves of audience participants. REGEN3: Regenerative Brainwave Music will be orchestrated by feeding tiny micro-voltages gathered from forty wired performers into a responsive EEG network: a "cyborg collective" comprising the cybernetic interactions between performers, musicians, electronics, and computing machines. Norbert Wiener, the originator of cybernetics, would be impressed.

    Unfortunately, the planned performance coincides with the largest blackout in North America's history. Major cities from New York to Toronto are effectively shut down. Pre-empted by the failure of a far more massive network - the North American power grid - this networked performance of music and minds has to wait for another day.

    Music of the Mind

    Two weeks later on August 30, 2003, Steve Mann and James Fung do manage to gather together the needed human energies to present REGEN3 / Regenerative Brainwave Music. [http://regen.eyetap.org Using hardware from Thought Technology [www.thoughttechnology.com and the PD interactive programming environment, [www.crca.ucsd.edu/~msp/software the brainwaves of the audience-performers are channelled into the creation of an interactive sonic and visual environment, where the participants' brainwave patterns create the music and lighting effects for the evening.

    Readers having sensations of déjà-vu are not entirely mistaken: this event was only the most recent salient example in the history of brainwave music in which diligent visionary individuals, artists and scientists, have worked together to synthesize hybrid works of art-science. Since 1965, when Alvin Lucier composed the first piece of music using human brainwaves as a generative source, brainwave music has undergone a fascinating evolution. To fully appreciate the directions this music is taking today, it is helpful to reflect upon the history of bioelectricity, brainwaves, and the context in which brainwave music has evolved.


    Brainwaves are a form of "bioelectricity", or electrical phenomena in animals or plants. The history of research into bioelectricity began around 1780 with Luigi Galvani, who discovered that he could cause muscles in a frog's leg to contract by applying an electrical current to exposed nerves. This work was followed by that of Emil Heinrich Du Bois-Reymond, considered the founder of modern electrophysiology, who in the 1840s began to measure biological currents in electric fish and later in humans via electrodes embedded directly in his own arm.

    In 1875 the British neurophysiologist Richard Caton succeeded in measuring brain electrical activity using electrodes implanted directly in the brain tissue of rabbits and monkeys. At the time, it was not believed to be possible to extract meaningful data by measuring more non-invasively, with electrodes placed on the human scalp. (Electrical implants directly into the brain were not widely used on humans for obvious ethical reasons.)

    History of Brainwaves

    Human brainwaves were first measured in 1924 by Hans Berger, at the time an unknown German psychiatrist. He termed these electrical measurements the "electroencephalogram" (EEG), which literally means "brain electricity writing". Berger published his brainwave results in 1929 as Über das Elektrenkephalogramm des Menschen ("On the Electroencephalogram of Man"). The English translation did not appear until 1969.

    Berger is a complex and enigmatic figure in the history of medical science. He had a lifelong obsession with finding scientific proof of a causal linkage between the psychical world of human consciousness and the physiological world of neurological electrical signals. He pursued this quest in the most methodical, disciplined scientific manner possible, determined to explain observed telepathic phenomena in terms of theories of the conservation of energy. Yet Berger's belief in this hypothesis stemmed not from his research itself, but from a personal subjective experience. Berger had almost died in an accident in his youth. The very same day he received a sudden unexpected telegram from his family inquiring into his health. Berger believed that his family had received some sort of telepathic communication from him at his moment of near-death.

    Sonification of Brainwaves

    Initially, Berger's work was largely ignored. It was not until five years after his first paper was published (when E.D. Adrian and B.H.C. Mathews verified Berger's results) that his discovery began to draw attention. In their 1934 article in the journal Brain [http://brain.oupjournals.org , Adrian and Matthews also reported successfully audifying and listening to human brainwaves which they had recorded according to Berger's methods. This was the first example of the "sonification" of human brainwaves for auditory display.

    Music from Brainwaves

    If we accept that the perception of an act as art is what makes it art, then the first instance of the use of brainwaves to generate music did not occur until 1965. Alvin Lucier [http://alucier.web.wesleyan.edu/ had begun working with physicist Edmond Dewan in 1964, performing experiments that used brainwaves to create sound. The next year, he was inspired to compose a piece of music using brainwaves as the sole generative source. Music for Solo Performer was presented, with encouragement from John Cage, at the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University in 1965. Lucier performed this piece several more times over the next few years, but did not continue to use EEG in his own compositions.


    In the late 1960s, Richard Teitelbaum [http://inside.bard.edu/teitelbaum was a member of the innovative Rome-based live electronic music group Musica Elettronica Viva (MEV). In performances of Spacecraft (1967) he used various biological signals including brain (EEG) and cardiac (EKG) signals as control sources for electronic synthesizers. Over the next few years, Teitelbaum continued to use EEG and other biological signals in his compositions and experiments as triggers for nascent Moog electronic synthesizers.

    Ecology of the Skin

    Then in the late 1960s, another composer, David Rosenboom [http://music.calarts.edu/~david/ , began to use EEG signals to generate music. In 1970-71 Rosenboom composed and performed Ecology of the Skin, in which ten live EEG performer-participants interactively generated immersive sonic/visual environments using custom-made electronic circuits. Around the same time, Rosenboom founded the Laboratory of Experimental Aesthetics at York University in Toronto, which encouraged pioneering collaborations between scientists and artists. For the better part of the 1970s, the laboratory undertook experimentation and research into the artistic possibilities of brainwaves and other biological signals in cybernetic biofeedback artistic systems. Many artists and musicians visited and worked at the facility during this time including John Cage, David Behrman, LaMonte Young, and Marian Zazeela. Some of the results of the work at this lab were published in the book Biofeedback and the Arts (Aesthetic Research Centre of Canada, 1976). A more recent 1990 monograph by Rosenboom, Extended Musical Interface with the Human Nervous System [ http://mitpress2.mit.edu/e-journals/LEA/MONOGRAPHS/ROSENBOOM/rosenboom.html , remains the definitive theoretical document in this area.

    Simultaneously, Manford Eaton was also building electronic circuits to experiment with biological signals at Orcus Research in Kansas City. He initially published an article titled Biopotentials as Control Data for Spontaneous Music (Orcus) in 1968. Then, in 1971, Eaton first published his manifesto Bio-Music: Biological Feedback Experiential Music Systems (Orcus; republished in 1974 by Something Else Press), arguing for completely new biologically generated forms of music and experience.


    In France, scientist Roger Lafosse was doing research into brainwave systems and proposed, along with musique concrète pioneer Pierre Henry, a sophisticated live performance system known as Corticalart (art from the cerebral cortex). In a series of free performances done in 1971, along with generated electronic sounds, one saw a television image of Henry in dark sunglasses with electrodes hanging from his head, projected so that the content of his brainwaves changed the colour of the image according to his brainwave patterns.

    Brain-Computer Interface

    Unbeknownst to these various composers, Jacques Vidal, a computer science researcher at UCLA, was working to develop the first direct brain-computer interface (BCI) using a batch-processing IBM computer. In 1973, he published Toward Direct Brain-Computer Communication (Annual Review of Biophysics and Bioengineering Vol. 2). Incidentally, the computer used in Vidal's research was one of the nodes on the nascent Arpanet, precursor to the Internet. Vidal has recently revisited this field in his speculative 1998 article Cyberspace Bionics. [www.cs.ucla.edu/~vidal/bionics.html

    Burst of Alpha

    Throughout most of the 1970s there was a burst of activity in brainwave music and art. Parallel to the work in Toronto, the Montréal group SONDE, along with Charles de Mestral, did some brainwave performances. At Logos in Ghent, Belgium, real-time brainwave triggered concerts were presented in 1972 and 1973. In Baltimore the Peabody Electronic Music Consort did performances. Rosenboom and others continued their work at Mills College.

    Toward the end of the 1970s, biofeedback and brainwave research fell into a period of quiescence due to many factors, primarily a lack of funding and of sufficiently powerful computers. Almost nothing happened in the field for about ten years.


    Then in 1990 two scientists, Benjamin Knapp and Hugh Lusted, began working on a computer interface called the BioMuse. [www.biocontrol.com/biomuse.html It permitted a human to control certain computer functions via bioelectric signals including EEG and EMG (electromyogram: a measure of muscle-related bioelectricity). In 1992, Atau Tanaka [www.sensorband.com/atau/ was commissioned by Knapp and Lusted to compose and perform music using the BioMuse as a controller. Tanaka continued to use the BioMuse, primarily as an EMG controller, in live performances throughout the 1990s. In 1996, Knapp and Lusted wrote an article for Scientific American about the BioMuse called Controlling Computers with Neural Signals. [www.absoluterealtime.com/resume/SciAmBioCtl.pdf

    Current Work

    During the past five years or so there has been a renewed interest in brainwave music and a resurgence in its performance. Much of this new work is naive in the sense that the musicians are not fully cognisant of the rich history of brainwave music and research which has preceded them. There has also been something of a bifurcation between those using hobbyist "biofeedback" equipment or techniques and those preferring to take a more rigorous "scientific" approach. Nonetheless, current advances in Brain-Computer Interface technology, along with advanced digital signal processing and more sophisticated aesthetic theoretical foundations, will inevitably drive the field forward into a new era of possibilities and music not yet imagined.

    Below is a sampling of some of the new and promising projects currently underway.

    Music and Art

    Artist/musician Neam Cathode showed Cyber Mondrian [www.oboro.net/archive/exhib0001/neam/neam.html at Montreal's Oboro Gallery in 2001. This work incorporated Mondrian-like generated images with synthesized sound that was controlled using the Interactive Brainwave Visual Analyzer or IBVA system. [www.ibva.com

    New York improviser David First created OPERATION: KRACPOT [http://davidfirst.com/krac.html in 2002 using "brainwave entrainement" and the phenomenon of the Schumann resonances [www.innerx.net/personal/tsmith/Schumann.html to create haunting music.

    Paras Kaul, the so-called "Brain Wave Chick", [www.brainwavechick.com/ has been using the IBVA system in her own brainwave music at George Mason University for many years.

    Adam Overton, a student of David Rosenboom at CalArts, has very recently performed his series of works entitled Sitting.Breathing.Series and Other Biometric Work. [ http://www.calarts.edu/~aoverton/projects/Sitting.Breathing/

    Andrew Brouse, the author of this article, created his InterHarmonium [www.music.mcgill.ca/~brouse/interharmonium in 2001. This Internet-enabled brainwave performance system uses Max/MSP [www.cycling74.com/products/maxmsp.html and OpenSoundControl [http://cnmat.cnmat.berkeley.edu/OpenSoundControl/ software.

    BCI Research

    Jessica Bayliss has a background in music technology, and has been working on Brain-Computer Interfaces for real-time control of computers at the Rochester Institute of Technology. [www.cs.rit.edu/~jdb/research/bci.sigproc.html

    Eduardo Miranda runs the Neuromusic lab at the University of Plymouth, [http://neuromusic.soc.plymouth.ac.uk/neuromusic.html where researchers are trying to further earlier research into brainwave music using the latest advances in Brain-Computer Interfaces.

    There are other active BCI research projects at universities around the world, including the University of British Columbia, [www.ece.ubc.ca/~garyb/BCI.htm the Wadsworth Centre [www.bciresearch.org in Albany, the University of Tubingen, [www.uni-tuebingen.de/uni/tci/ and the University of Technology Graz. [www.dpmi.tu-graz.ac.at/bci.htm

    Andrew Brouse is a multidisciplinary musician, composer, artist, and technologist. He has worked in the contemporary intermedia arts and music for over fifteen years. He currently lives in Montreal.

  9. Young Chimps are Better than Adults in Numerical Memory Task?


    Sana Inoue and Tetsuro Matsuzawa of Kyoto University showed a computer screen grid of nine numbers to six chimpanzees. The chimps were previously trained to recognize the ascending nature of the numbers. They were also shown to nine college students. When subjects touched one of the numbers, all of the others vanished. They then had to touch the squares in the order of the numbers that used to be there.

    When the numbers flashed for just four-tenths of a second or less, one of the chimps beat all of the college students.

    Here's the press release from 'Current Biology', a publication of Cell Press:

    >Young chimps top adult humans in numerical memory

    Young chimpanzees have an “extraordinary” ability to remember numerals that is superior to that of human adults, researchers report in the December 4th issue of Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press.


    “There are still many people, including many biologists, who believe that humans are superior to chimpanzees in all cognitive functions,” said Tetsuro Matsuzawa of Kyoto University. “No one can imagine that chimpanzees—young chimpanzees at the age of five—have a better performance in a memory task than humans. Here we show for the first time that young chimpanzees have an extraordinary working memory capability for numerical recollection—better than that of human adults tested in the same apparatus, following the same procedure.”


    Chimpanzee memory has been extensively studied, the researchers said. The general assumption is that, as with many other cognitive functions, it is inferior to that of humans. However, some data have suggested that, in some circumstances, chimpanzee memory may indeed be superior to human memory.


    In the current study, the researchers tested three pairs of mother and infant chimpanzees (all of which had already learned the ascending order of Arabic numerals from 1 to 9) against university students in a memory task of numerals. One of the mothers, named Ai, was the first chimpanzee who learned to use Arabic numerals to label sets of real-life objects with the appropriate number.


    In the new test, the chimps or humans were briefly presented with various numerals from 1 to 9 on a touch-screen monitor. Those numbers were then replaced with blank squares, and the test subject had to remember which numeral appeared in which location and touch the squares in the appropriate order.


    The young chimpanzees could grasp many numerals at a glance, with no change in performance as the hold duration—the amount of time that the numbers remained on the screen—was varied, the researchers found. In general, the performance of the three young chimpanzees was better than that of their mothers. Likewise, adult humans were slower than all of the three young chimpanzees in their response. For human subjects, they showed that the percentage of correct trials also declined as a function of the hold duration—the shorter the duration became, the worse their accuracy was.


    Matsuzawa said the chimps’ memory ability is reminiscent of “eidetic imagery,” a special ability to retain a detailed and accurate image of a complex scene or pattern. Such a “photographic memory” is known to be present in some normal human children, and then the ability declines with the age, he added.


    The researchers said they believe that the young chimps’ newfound ability to top humans in the numerical memory task is “just a part of the very flexible intelligence of young chimpanzees.”




    The researchers include Sana Inoue and Tetsuro Matsuzawa, of Kyoto University, Japan.

  10. The Science of Sarcasm

    From the New York Times:


    There was nothing very interesting in Katherine P. Rankin’s study of sarcasm — at least, nothing worth your important time. All she did was use an M.R.I. to find the place in the brain where the ability to detect sarcasm resides. But then, you probably already knew it was in the right parahippocampal gyrus.

    What you may not have realized is that perceiving sarcasm, the smirking put-down that buries its barb by stating the opposite, requires a nifty mental trick that lies at the heart of social relations: figuring out what others are thinking. Those who lose the ability, whether through a head injury or the frontotemporal dementias afflicting the patients in Dr. Rankin’s study, just do not get it when someone says during a hurricane, “Nice weather we’re having.”

    “A lot of the social cognition we take for granted and learn through childhood, the ability to appreciate that someone else is being ironic or sarcastic or angry — the so-called theory of mind that allows us to get inside someone else’s head — is characteristically lost very early in the course of frontotemporal dementia,” said Dr. Bradley F. Boeve, a behavioral neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

    “It’s very disturbing for family members, but neurologists haven’t had good tools for measuring it,” he went on. “That’s why I found this study by Kate Rankin and her group so fascinating.”

    Dr. Rankin, a neuropsychologist and assistant professor in the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco, used an innovative test developed in 2002, the Awareness of Social Inference Test, or Tasit. It incorporates videotaped examples of exchanges in which a person’s words seem straightforward enough on paper, but are delivered in a sarcastic style so ridiculously obvious to the able-brained that they seem lifted from a sitcom.

    more here

  11. Thinking up beautiful music

    Musicians may soon be able to play instruments using just the power of the mind.


    By Andrew Webb

    Technology reporter, BBC News



    Researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London have developed technology to translate thoughts into musical notes.


    The Brain Computer Interface for Music requires electrodes to be attached to the head.


    They pick up electrical impulses from the brain which are passed through an electroencephalography (EEG) machine and analysed.


    The man behind the project, Dr Mick Grierson, demonstrated the system to BBC News.


    When musical notes flash the scientist stares at the display while thinking of a note he wants to play.


    When the same note appears it unconsciously triggers a change in his brain activity - a change registered by the computer he was plugged into.


    "After a while it will make a decision about which note I am thinking about and it tries to play it," he said.


    Dr Grierson has run trials in which 6 out of 8 notes played were the same as those being thought of.


    The project is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and aims to find a way for people who have difficulty using their hands to play music.


    "There are many composers who are struck down with multiple sclerosis and other physical disabilities who still want to continue making music", said Dr Grierson.



    Brain game


    A number of research projects around the world are looking into using brain controlled interaction with computers to improve the lives of people with disabilities.


    Tokyo's Keio University has demonstrated robotic hands being controlled through thought processes.


    The research is also leading to commercial products.


    US and Australian firm Emotiv hopes to have a headset video game costing $299 on the market by the end of the year.


    It enables players to vanquish villains through thoughts and emotions without ever touching a controller.

    full article at BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7446552.stm

  12. Nintendo Wii to use EEG for controlling games?


    From T3

    Mind-controlled Nintendo Wii 2.0 set to rock Mario's console galaxy?


    The Nintendo Wii may have revolutionised gaming but we wouldn't bet against it further upping-the-ante, should a mind-controlled Wii 2.0 ever grace our living rooms.


    Our awesome artist's impressions, part of the future tech feature in the new issue of T3 Magazine, showcase a Wii headset accessory that uses brainwaves to control characters and also feature immersive in-ear headphones. Sweet.


    We've also imagined a streamlined Wii Remote with just the one button. You point and press, your frontal lobes do the rest.


    Brain-wave technology is already becoming a reality with Emotiv pioneering in-game systems, but our crystal ball of gadge is advising us to stick a few quid on Nintendo knocking-out the first mind-controlled console on the market.

    Hopefully we'll have more info on this soon. Some more images:


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7:55am April 19-5:00 GMT