One part of this project is to redesign the EEG Scanner, the headwear which is used to read which parts of the brain are active, which is done by sensors picking up electrical signals. I’m lucky to be working with scientists at MIT for this part of the project, trying to change their old ‘laboratory’ version into a more ‘clinic’ friendly iteration.
Their old version had 168 sensors placed all over the head, the newer version may only need 36 focused around the back part of the head, as it is targeting the activity of the Post Cingular Cortex (PCC) specifically. It must also house a wifi-transmitter, which will mean the user does not have to be tethered to the computer… always a big plus. I’m starting by using a 6mm neoprene, which is elastic allowing it to be pulled tight, as is necessary, to the scalp. I aim to have two of three basic designs to take over to MIT in late January, I’m sure lots of changes will be necessary at that point.
It’s tricky to get the wi-fi transmitter elegantly included in the form. As well as these practical function led constraints I’m working to make it easier to put on, and of course looking for a more user friendly aesthetic, less bizarre and more… well… beautiful. The idea is that this will be used during meditation, so I think the less distractions from an uncomfortable and unattractive headgear the better. This is the kind of design challenge I really enjoy, lots of form exploration and material testing… great fun.
The other interesting aspect of the EEG which is ripe for a re-design in the feedback mechanism. Currently the user watches a screen whilst they meditate and a graph reflects the activity of the PCC, when the line dips down that means that the PCC is less active, which is a strong indication that the user is in Flow State.
How the method of receiving information can affect the training is an interesting challenge to address, for example we can use a video to learn yoga but the act of straining our necks to keep the video in view can be detrimental to the very act we are trying to improve, aligning our bodies to achieve a good yoga position. I am wanting to find out the very best method of communicating with a meditator during meditation, to find a way to deliver information accurately but with as little distraction from the act of meditation as possible. Before I get into the details of how it would work I want to know if there is a preferable sense, so whether a visual, tactile or audio cue may be a superior fit for my purpose.
I ran a quick workshop to begin my investigation, and it turned out to be, as is not unusual, a workshop for developing a better workshop. Basically it’s really tricky to not have the cues already loaded in such a way as to make it difficult for people to choose fairly between them. So I decided to bring in some experts. I set up a meeting with
Prof. Joydeep Bhattacharya FRSA, Director at the Centre for Cognition and Neuroscience
Department of Psychology Goldsmiths, University of London. He introduced me to his PhD Student Jasmine Tan, together we will be setting up some experiments to try and discover the best method of communicating with meditators for more effective meta-cognition. More to follow once we’ve got going with this next term.