Playing Music and Ping-Pong Without Hands -
March 20th 2011, 09:40 AM
Some of you know I study in neuroscience and although I'm generally not always interested in the neuroscience regarding sound, this article was an amazing work of engineering and neuroscience combined.
It's not too long but to summarize, researchers Miranda and his team tested a device built that translates EEG signals from patients who are immobile due to neurodegenerative diseases into a way for sound to occur.
The sounds are made by "pushing buttons" and the intensity of which buttons to be pushed are determined by the relative amounts of concentration and attention. These amounts are picked up by EEG scanners and lead to playing piano music. EEG scanners are used because they have the best real world-time integration compared to MEGs, fMRIs, PETs, etc... . EEGs aren't great for the details of which areas are activating but for this device, that's not necessarily needed to be so precise.
These devices haven't been made yet for clinical use, it's just made right now for research but is intended for clinical use.
The above link was used as part of the inspiration for the music playing device because it allows for people with neurdegenerative disorder where immobility is impaired to play ping-pong. Although ping-pong may not be the most exciting game, it means someone who could hardly move now has the equivalent of staying on their toes and quickly swinging a paddle to hit a ball. That's very impressive.
Unlike the first link, this doesn't use EEGs, instead it uses fMRIs. Clinically it's problematic because fMRIs are very very expensive, rarely used clinically. Also, unlike EEGs, they don't have real-time integration meaning it's always lagged a bit. However, it has much more precision in identifying which areas are activated. fMRIs have the patient lie on a bed and a screen is brought to them overhead so they can lie down or sit up and focus on mentally hitting the ball. That's not all though, their opponent is another patient hooked up in a nearby fMRI! Same in the above study, to hit the ball, patients alter their mental load and are trained to know how to move the paddle.
This study is meant to have clinical devices that use EEGs not fMRIs, as in the first link.
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