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Amazing New Invention: These ‘hands-free’ musical instruments create music with brain signals alone

The Encephalophone collects brain signals with the help of a cap that transforms the specific signals into musical notes.
Written by: India TV Lifestyle Desk New Delhi July 13, 2017 16:39 IST
India TV Lifestyle Desk

Do you always need your hands to play your favourite musical instruments? This new invention begs to differ. A newly-developed musical instrument allows people to create music with their mind. Yes, it is true and not any other hoax you come across your social media feed. This new invention has given a new definition to straight off the dome. The novel creation can help the people suffering from physically disabilities like stroke, ALS, spinal cord injury, paraplegia to empower and rehabilitate themselves. 

"The Encephalophone is a musical instrument that you control with your thoughts, without movement," explained first author Thomas Deuel from the University of Washington.

"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," said Deuel. "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 with the help of a cap that transforms the specific signals into musical notes. This invention comes along with a synthesizer, which enables the user to create music using a wide number of musical instruments. 

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Deuel originally developed the Encephalophone (patent pending) in his own independent laboratory, in collaboration with Felix Darvas, a physicist at the University of Washington. In this first report, they describe their development of the instrument, as well as their initial studies showing evidence of how easily the instrument might be used. This preliminary study showed that a trial group of 15 healthy adults were able to use the instrument to correctly recreate musical tones, with no prior training.

"We first sought to prove that novices--subjects who had no training on the Encephalophone whatsoever--could control the device with an accuracy that was better than random," said Deuel. "These first subjects did quite well, way above chance probability on their very first try."

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The Encephalophone can be controlled via two independent types of brain signals: either those associated with the visual cortex (i.e. closing one's eyes), or those associated with thinking about movement. Control by thinking about movement may be the most useful for disabled patients, and Deuel plans to continue researching this application. But for now, this current study shows that, at least for this small group of novice users, control by eye closing is more accurate than control by imagining movements. 

"There is great potential for the Encephalophone to hopefully improve rehabilitation of stroke patients and those with motor disabilities," Deuel noted.

The Encephalophone works on the brain-computer interface which uses an age-old method called electroencephalography. It measures the electrical signals in the brain. This technique was first used in 1930s to convert the brain signals to sound and later it was used to convert it into music in 1960s. But the methods were unfeasible and difficult to be used in real life. It was also not easily accessible to non-specialist users. 

(With ANI Inputs) 

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