July 14, 2017:
A newly-developed musical instrument will now enable people to produce music with their minds without letting the use of hands on the device. The instrument called Encephalophone — “enceph” means “head” — is described in a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
In the study, fifteen novice normal subjects were tested for their ability to hit target notes presented within a 5 min trial period. All 15 subjects were able to perform more accurately than a random note generation.
Researchers assume that this new instrument will rehabilitate patients with motor disabilities such as those from stroke and others.
Thomas Deuel, an author from the University of Washington explained, “The Encephalophone is a musical instrument that you control with your thoughts, without movement.”
Deuel adds, “I am a musician and neurologist, and I’ve seen many patients who played music prior to their stroke or other motor impairment, who can no longer play an instrument or sing. I thought it would be great to use a brain-computer instrument to enable patients to play music again without requiring movement.”
The Encephalophone collects brain signals through a cap that transforms the signals into musical notes. The invention is combined with a synthesizer which allows the user to create music using a variety of instrumental sounds.
Music is already a great source to help people regain brain function, and the hands-free instrument could be used in this type of therapy. The authors write that combining the Encephalophone with physical therapy could help rewire key circuits in the part of the brain responsible for movement.
Over the decades, there have been numerous attempts to use brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) to produce music and met with some success. Advances in BCI technology are facilitating finer degrees of control over diverse technologies, making it possible for those who have lost control of limbs to walk, manipulate objects, or even drive again.
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