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Category Archives: neurobiology

Losing the ability to walk, talk, or even move a finger no longer precludes your ability to make music.  Planet Harmony's Amanda Legros explains the Brain Computer Music Interface or BCMI, a tool that translates pure thought into pure sound.

Amanda Legros: [PIANO MUSIC] You are listening to a patient who is bound to a wheelchair and paralyzed from the neck down produce sound… through pure thought.

This unlikely musician can’t move his fingers across a keyboard but he can think those notes. His thoughts are then processed through a skullcap spiked with sensors that gauge mental activity.

A new technology developed by Brazilian composer and computer-music specialist Eduardo Miranda allows patients with neuromuscular disabilities the chance to play and compose music with thought alone.

Miranda and computer scientists at the University of Essex have collaborated to develop a brain-computer musical interface or BCMI. They used a cheap and inexpensive form of brain scan called electroencephalography, also known as EEG. The EEG cap picks up faint neural signals from the brain. It then translates these neural impulses into musical notes.

But just like people who use electrically implanted prosthetic limbs, this technology takes practice.

This is a virtuoso of BCMI. A man sits motionless- a skull cap on his head with wires flowing out, that go through a set of computers, which are finally connected to an old wooden piano.

Miranda directs the man to change the tempo: “If he wants change it, he can change it.” And without moving a finger.  [PIANO MUSIC]

Miranda and his team hope to continue improving the ability for people with disabilities to make their mind play melodies. He has been trying to develop a way to create music using brain waves for a decade. His research to hone BCMI is motivated by the limitations of patients suffering from paralysis. The challenges of neuromuscular disabilities go far beyond not being able to move. There is a loss of control and independence. And trials with patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's have shown that music therapy can actually delay the progression of those illnesses.

This technology gives form to the old saying having a song stuck in your head.

Amanda Legros BCMI.mp3 1.9 MB