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Neurologists have created a musical instrument which is hands-free and can be controlled by a person’s thoughts.

Naming it Encephalophone, through this invention, researchers are optimistic that it might help in empowering and rehabilitating patients with motor diseases like stroke, spinal, cord injury, ALS or amputation.

The lead author of the report published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Thomas Deuel expressed, “The Encephalophone is a musical instrument that you control with your thoughts, without movement.”

He continued, “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. I thought it would be great to use a brain-computer instrument to enable patients to play music again without requiring movement.”

As Science Daily reports, the instrument works by gathering brain signals by means of a cap that converts specific signals to musical notes. It is then attached with a synthesizer that permits the user to generate music using a wide range of instrumental sounds.

For its experiment, a group of 15 healthy adult volunteers used the instrument for recreating musical tones, without any former 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. These first subjects did quite well, way above chance probability on their very first try.”

The Encephalophone can be easily managed through two independent kinds of brain signals, those linked with visual cortex (closing one’s eyes) or those linked with thinking about movement. The control via thinking about movement might prove to be extremely beneficial for disabled patients but, this needs further research. However, for this little group of beginners, control through eye closing is more precise as compared to the other method for the time being.

The instrument is based on brain-computer interfaces using a method known as electroencephalography that is used to measure electrical signals in the brain. Collaborating with the Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS), this instrument is not only musically flexible but also user-friendly.

For future, Deuel plans on beginning clinical trials of the Encephalophone to check if the instrument is helpful or enjoyable for disabled patients. “There is great potential for the Encephalophone to hopefully improve rehabilitation of stroke patients and those with motor disabilities,” says Deuel.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2017

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