If you can think it, you can play it. The encephalophone is an instrument that emits notes according to a person’s brain signals. The device was developed by neurologists and composers at the University of Washington and is designed to help those who have had a stroke or restricted by paralysis to engage with music.
Lead researcher Dr. Thomas Deuel said that the encephalophone is “an EEG-controlled musical instrument.” He went on to say that: “When you move your right arm, the motor cortex is engaged and I can see that with the EEG. But when you just think about moving your arm, the same signal happens — even if you’ve had a stroke or Lou Gehrig’s disease and think about moving your arm, I can see it.”
So, how does it work? The person playing the instrument wears an electrode cap, the cap detects the wearer’s brain waves and and can be set off by thoughts and facial movements. These waves are synthesised to produce string, piano and many other sounds. “I thought it would be great to use a brain-computer instrument to enable patients to play music again without requiring movement,” says Deuel.
The video below features a relaxed Deuel playing his instrument with a live jazz band.