It seems astonishing that the story of electroencephalography, EEG, began back in Victorian times. The first research was published in 1875 by Liverpool physician Richard Caton. Fifty years later, the first recording of human brain activity was achieved by Hans Berger, and the EEG headset was born.
The headset detects brain activity via electrodes, information which is then converted into a visual form. Throughout the twentieth century, electroencephalography was used almost exclusively for medical research, proving itself a handy tool on the diagnosis of epilepsy. Rapidly developing software that enables increasingly sophisticated analysis of the data has triggered research projects looking at the brain’s reaction to a range of external stimuli.
Music For Therapeutic Use
A research project based at Reading University’s Brain Embodiment Laboratory has been researching the relationship between body, mind and environment by looking at how the brain responds to music. Understanding how the brain responds to happy or sad music may unlock ways to ‘harness the power of music for therapeutic uses’ and pave the way to help those suffering from depression.
Brain Activity of Card Players
A 2014 study, using EEG headsets from Emotiv, looked at professional and amateur poker players‘ brain activity to better understand the extent to which logic and emotion can be controlled by learned behaviour. As might be expected, the players’ brain maps revealed that professionals exercise more emotional control and more critical engagement.
The BioSense lab at the University of California has developed biometrics technology which enables individuals to be identified by their brainwaves when using an EEG headset. ‘Passthoughts’ enable a user to log into a device or website by thinking of a phrase in their head. However, this impregnable system may not be quite as secure as first hoped. A study at the University of Alabama has found that software could be used to spy on an EEG user’s brainwaves by recording the user’s eye, head and neck movements. If the victim can be fooled into typing a series of say two hundred characters, perhaps as a preliminary to re-entering a game, the software could start to make educated guesses about the characters being typed and therefore mimic these to gain access. No surprise then that passthoughts are still in the early stages of development, but the very possibility that one day we may be able to log into our bank accounts using our thoughts is pretty groundbreaking.
This is clearly a technology that, when used in conjunction with robotics, can transform the lives of those whose physical bodies are weak or impaired and its potential to change the way all of us interact with the world is profound.