Category Archives: Brain Science and Research

Brain, Computer-Controlled Musical Interface Opens Doors for Disabled

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Image: Renjith Krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“The bottom line is: Can technology help creativity and if so how? And could it lead to a new kind of approach to music?”

Professor Christopher James, Chair in Healthcare Technology at the UK’s University of Warwick.

These words leapt off the page at me, from a CNN technology article, as I pursed my RSS feeds this week.  James’ thoughts exactly match my excitement for where I believe sound and music is heading.  Increasingly, music and sound are being discussed as essential to human functioning and wellness.  More and more, technology and music are partners in bringing life to new applications and tools that are advancing the health and potential of thousands with brain injuries or developmental disorders.

The latest of these discoveries using brain-computer interfacing (BCI) was made public last week. Eduardo Miranda, a composer and computer music specialist from United Kingdom-based Plymouth University and music therapist Wendy Magee, with the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability (RHN) in London developed a musical interface that allows people with brain injuries the ability to make music with their thoughts.

The brain-computer music interface (BCMI) uses four icons encoded with musical algorithms that are projected on a computer screen. The algorithms allow a person to control a musical note’s tone, pitch, volume and speed as they gaze at the icons with their eyes.  Brainwave impulses are then captured through a network of electrodes meshed in a cap worn on their heads and translated to audible sound.

Magee is encouraged by initial results of the device’s pilot and sees the interface as having broad application for rehabilitation of people with all forms of disability.

“What the latest research is saying is that music is like a mega-vitamin for the brain — it lights up networks, and works across both hemispheres (of the brain),” she said. “Theoretically, we knew that the system should be helpful for people with disability. Now we have the demonstrable proof.”

Like Magee, I believe experiments like these are just the tip of the iceberg in showing technology and music’s potential in bringing self-expression and healing to people who previously had no way to connect with others.  These devices will offer a glimpse into the amazing potential of the brain and give everyone the ability to share their gifts with the world.

Imagine the possibilities.

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