How to assist meditation using a device called MUSE sensing headband?

Gabriel Wong
Clinical Psychologist

Do you have a Fitbit? I guess many people do.

People nowadays tend to use a fitbit to record how much they have achieved their goals in terms of physical tasks. Have you ever thought of a device that can track your brain activities but not as complicated as doctors use to measure your EEG? Here is the news for you – there is a brain sensing headband called MUSE that can measure your brain activities and guide you through meditation.

We are living in a busy world. We don’t just work for long hours, but we are all stressed up by our work, relationships and our family. We have thought of many forms of activities that can help us relax and relieve our pressure and stress such as drinking, karaoke, yoga, gambling, playing computer games, playing sports, listening to music, etc. Some of these so-called “relaxation activities” may help us just for the short–term, and it may make us feel more tired whether it is physiologically or psychologically after doing it. We all know that meditation does help us relax and feel calm, as well as building our attention span and sense of awareness, i.e. insight, but it is difficult for us to focus during mediation. We might keep ruminating and be distracted during meditation. Fortunately, there is a new form of device that can assist us during meditation and can bring a sense of tranquillity to us. This device is called MUSE – a sensing Headband that can pick up brain signals through the use of seven sensors along our pre-frontal lobe, and transforms the signals into sounds that we can choose to listen during meditation through downloading the free app.

Just connect the MUSE headband to your phone via Bluetooth, and then wear the headband along your pre-frontal lobe, and adjust it to the right gear. Open the app on your phone and close your eyes. Take a three-minute break and let the headband guide you in focusing attention. Next you will feel like you are on an open beach. The changes of the sound reflect the state of your brain. You can try to stabilize the sound to control your mental state and enter into the meditation world.

When it is over, you can look at the app on your phone, and you can notice changes in your brain waves and breathing throughout the entire process. This headband can work with the matching Calm App, which connects to iOS or Android devices via Bluetooth. Every time before using this App, you must first calibrate the MUSE headband. The calibration method allows the App to record the activity of the user’s brain: the user must close his eyes, wear a headband, and follow the audio guidance for brainstorming tasks within a minute or so. After the app completes the calibration, it will guide you through three-minute training. The purpose is to reduce your stress and anxiety and improve your concentration. The app will ask the user to try not to think about anything, counting from 1 to 10 and counting their own breathing to start from the beginning. Of course, we can do this training anytime and anywhere. Muse allows the users to see their performance on their app. The user will notice that the brain is easily distracted during this training. A little voice or thought will interrupt the task and have to refocus. This Calm App will provide immediate feedback based on your performance.

If our brain is calm and focused, it will emit soft, breezy sounds; and the more active the brain, the louder it will be. When we reach a long period of calm and concentration, it will make birdie singing voices. How wonderful it is to guide us during meditation!

According to Ariel Garten, president of InterAxon, said that it was normal for the first time to try it on. This is to provide a platform for us to make progress. As long as we continue to use it, the ability of the user’s brain to remain calm and focused will increase. Garten continues to demonstrate other functions of the Calm App, including providing feedback on training results, recording long-term performance of the user, setting up milestones, and rewarding levels, as well as providing advice to users on how to improve performance during training. Many users at the Wearable Technology Research Show said that after trying Muse, they feel more calm and clearer.

Watch this video to see how the MUSE works .https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ern-WHr4rfI.

Research has been done by a neuroscientist Olav Krigolson and his team from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada using a Muse headband to measure the monks’ brain activity at rest, during meditation and while playing video games in the remote village of Namche, Nepal in May 2016. The data recorded through the MUSE headband indicated that the monks’ brains were still very active during meditation; however they found out that their brains were more relaxed, focused and in sync during meditation. They also noticed there was a carry-over effect that after meditation, their neurons were more responsive to visual stimuli when they were playing video games while still putting on the MUSE headband. Although it is still in the early stage, they suggested that meditation may “stave off” the effect of aging.

Another research project tried to test the accuracy of Muse, such as quietly reading a book, but it was found that brain wave calmness index was only 26%. Perhaps this was because the participants were thinking about the content of the book. After more trials, the participants were asked to take a deep breath while they were still reading the book. The results showed that it was close to the meditation test, and it obtained the highest score of 78%. This experience proved that Muse could indeed feel our brain wave changes.

The Muse Headband combines meditation relaxation with wearable technology to give users insight into their brain activity. In the same way that a heart monitor works, the external device can detect changes in the electric field in the human brain. Human brain signals can reflect their own stress levels.

How can Muse meditation headband improve our meditation sessions?
The Muse headband helps us become better at meditation and mindfulness. It assists us to improve our focus on breathing and make sure our mind does not wander off during the meditation. We can also do multiple sessions per day and analyse how our focus change between different times of the day. It was also observed during the research with a MUSE headband, that some people presented with a state of hyper excitation which in return leads to a longer meditation session.

Macquarie University Library also lends the MUSE sensing headband to their students to help their meditation in the library. The Department of Psychology has purchased a few of them and students can borrow it through the library borrowing system. The MUSE sensing headband has become a personal meditation assistant.

(I have to stress that I do not have any connection with the company who sells this devise MUSE. I have used it to help my mediation, and I would like to share with people who are interested in practising meditation.)

References:
MUSE (2018). Retrieved from http://www.choosemuse.com/

Techcrunch (2018). MUSE brain sensing headband. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ern-WHr4rfI