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Blissed Out Music Helmet, Telepathic Hellos, and Happy Sorta Stoned Mice

posted Mar 27, 2015, 8:19 PM by Ellen Pearlman

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Photo by Natalja Safronova

Artist, Aiste Noreikaite uses brain waves to make music between the human brain and synthesized sound happen in real-time. Influenced by Buddhist meditation, she uses a helmet retrofitted with a NeuroSky headset and headphones that she calls “The Experience Headset” so she can walk around immersed in sound instead of having her piece be an on-site installation.   When initially programming sound frequencies she made the sine waves sound slightly different on the left and right side of the headset, so when the waves were played together they actually produced a third frequency that vibrated at 10HZ inbinaural beats, equal to the same frequency as the brain’s Alpha waves.  The brain likes this frequency and it turns the beats into a lightly pleasant feedback loop. If one walks around hearing these sounds through the helmet, it turns your walk into a private curated soundtrack of experience.

Brainwave information is received through a NeuroSky EEG headset placed inside the helmet. This sensor reads the user’s natural bio-signals and outputs them as a spectrum of alpha, beta, theta and delta waves. An eSense meter measures attention and meditation. These signals are used as control messages creating pure sine waves reflecting the person’s mental state in the form of sound.

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The artist Aiste helps a gallery goer put on “The Experience Headset” at the Hotel Elephant Gallery in London, 2014
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Another gallery visitor blisses out underneath The Experience Helmet

The Experience Helmet is still in development, so its only available at gallery installations like the one pictured above. 

Telepathic Hellos

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This blog has written about various telepathic brain connections, and a new one has come to light, similar to the one at the University of Washington that was developed in 2013. This one includes Barcelona-based research institute Starlab, French firm Axilum Robotics and Harvard Medical School, Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. They published their findings in PLos One.

The entire process was excruciatingly slow and cumbersome. Letters were translated to binary code, such as the letter “H” which became  “0-0-1-1-1” for example, in spelling out the world ‘hello.’  Next a subject who had EEG sensors on their scalp would move either their hand to indicate a “O” of binary code or their feet to indicate a “1” in binary code.  The code was sent by email, and the receiver was blind folded. Hovering over the receiver’s head was a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) system  The TMS system stimulated the recipients brain with short, quick flashes of light. A flash of light was a “1″ binary and no light was a “O” binary. Then the 0′s and 1′s were translated back into letters, and then into words. It took well over an hour to accomplish this.  Its like Morse Code for slow receivers, but then that is how the telephone started, it was originally Morse Code.

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View of emitter and receiver subjects with non-invasive devices supporting, respectively, the BCI based on EEG changes driven by motor imagery (left) and the CBI based on the reception of phosphenes elicited by a neuronavigated TMS (right) components of the B2B transmission system. Source - PLoS One

The authors of the study concluded that “computers in the not-so-distant future will interact directly with the human brain in a fluent manner, supporting both computer- and brain-to-brain communication routinely.”

Happy Sorta Stoned Mice

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Scientists are working to selectively change brain processing during sleep so they can “soften” memories or change their emotional content. The idea is to work with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but the implications are broader than that. At this time, group of scientists at the  National Centre for Scientific Research (CRNS) in France are focusing on producing happy, or sorta addicted mice.

Five mice had been running around a normal science lab mice playground having a normal nice mouse in a science lab kind of day. That afternoon as the mice were napping the scientists stimulated their brains through electrodes. Since I can’t imagine that the mice were not woken up by having electrodes put into their brains, they must have been running around with electrodes in their brains to begin with - just not active but conked out from mouse play.

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Happy memories for mice!

To give the mice stimulated happy memories the scientists had to locate specific neurons in the little mice brains that form spatial memories about places. So yes, they did implant electrodes into the  hippocampus  which is the area of the brain associated with memory formation. 

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It worked like this -when the mice were introduced to a new environment, the researchers tracked activity in their hippocampus. Then the mice had little one hour mice naps. When the hippocampus started firing during mice nap time they were not even in REM sleep, because an hour is not enough time to have mice go into REM sleep, though the scientists do want to investigate that aspect of mouse sleep.  Anyway, while the mice were napping and their hippocampus was firing the researchers had placed another electrode in an area of the brain associated with pleasure and fired that electrode up. 

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Not so happy looking lab mouse with electrodes in its brain

When nap time was over and the mice woke up they ran to the new place they had just been in before the nap took place, sniffing around for some great something or other that did not exist, but they felt had just experienced during their little mouse naps. This simple experiment leads into the fact that DARPAalso wants to restore or change memories. Their program is spearheaded by Dr. Justin Sanchez, who I wrote about previously. So happy mice has implications for making happy memories for people who experience trauma - or maybe just wiping out people’s bad memories altogether. Who knows? The mice are not telling.

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