The Muse Headband Exercises your Brain
Last night I was startled awake with a bad dream. I found myself staring at the ceiling at 4 AM, unable to get back to sleep and wishing I could relax my buzzing mind enough to catch a couple more hours of sleep. Sometimes it happens when my day’s been go-go-go, working at the office, rushing the kids to karate practice, making dinner, hustling everyone to bed … life’s little stresses start to build up so I just can’t relax. Most doctors will tell you that this kind of stress is detrimental to your health. Approximately 75% of all doctor’s visits are thought to be stress related, and you can vastly improve your health and wellness by reducing some of the stress in your life.
InteraXon (pronounced in-ter-AX-on, like the axons that conduct electrical impulses in your brain) may have found a way to help you train your brain to focus or relax at will. They’ve developed a little device called Muse: a brain-sensing headband, designed to be comfortably worn over your ears like glasses, with sensors along a band that rests gently against your forehead. Combined with sensors over your ears, Muse is able to collect 4 channels of EEG data (the electrical transmissions that your brain emits) and use that data to provide you information about your mental state. The more you know about the state of your mind, the more you’ll be able to control it, using exercises specially designed to help you improve cognitive function, memory, focus and concentration, in addition to giving you tools for calming and settling your mind and reducing stress.
Before you start thinking this is a mind-controlling device and run for the hills, let me assure you that’s not how it works. Just like a heart rate monitor senses electrical impulses coming from your heart and provides doctors with important information about how your heart is functioning, Muse senses similar impulses from your brain and provides you with data you can use to improve mental function. It can’t read your mind either, so don’t get any ideas about attaching it to your wife’s skull while she’s sleeping (unless you want to read her delta waves or something).
InteraXon says, “people constantly tell us they ‘can’t turn off’ their minds, and this can have a tremendous impact on a person’s well-being. Enhancing brain flexibility allows you to shift your brain activity to match what you are doing, like concentrating at work, or de-stressing before you go home. Having a more resilient or stable brain allows you to bounce back from unhealthy activities and experiences like lack of sleep, excessive stress, injury, etc.”
The Muse application starts out by obtaining a baseline of your brain activity, since every person’s brain is different. It walks you through a series of exercises, like clenching your teeth, blinking your eyes rapidly, watching a tranquil beach scene and listening to soothing music. As you begin to progress through the sessions within the application, you play games that earn you “points” toward access to additional activities, all while collecting data that allows it to more precisely measure what is going on in your brain.
As you practice, you’re exercising your brain and vastly improving your ability to create a more calm state of mind when you want one. Additionally, just like traditional exercise where you see improvements in how many barbells you can lift, Muse tracks your mental improvements over time as you improve your capabilities.
The scientists who developed the technology are currently working with a number of research laboratories studying disorders such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD. They’ve tested similar setups with people with these disorders and discovered some positive results. For example, one study found reductions in symptoms for ADHD sufferers, equivalent to those of Ritalin, after 10-20 hours of use, and the stabilizing effects often persisted for up to six months after the patients’ training sessions. They’re hoping to use the band as a tool to help people deal with all types of mental disorders in the future. Imagine what you could accomplish on your own with regular use.
Muse is not yet available in stores or online, but you can pre-order one at www.getyourmuse.com. It will be compatible with iOS and Android mobile devices and the cost is $269 for pre-order, or $299 retail when it’s released some time in Spring 2014.