Students from the CDT Neurotechnology presented four fun exhibits showcasing modern neurotechnology at the Imperial Festival 2018
At this year’s Imperial Festival CDT Neurotechnology students presented four exhibits that aimed to explain some of the problems and goals of modern Neurotechnology. The stand, in the ‘Robot Zone’, was divided into two sections.
In the ‘MindGames’ section, visitors could control games with signals from their central and peripheral nervous systems. The first game used a myoband sensor worn on the arm to detect electrical activity of the muscles. These signals were used to control a spacecraft in an immersive space-invaders arcade game. In Neurotechnology such biosignals are commonly used to control bionic prosthetic limbs. Here the visitors could see how hard it is both for engineers to come up with an intuitive control strategy, and for patients to control something using this technique.
In the second MindGame visitors could break a plastic spoon with the power of their mind! Sounds like something from The Matrix? It’s the power of neurotechnology. Here the students measured brain waves with a simple EEG headset and applied an algorithm to measure the attention level of the participant. If the visitor concentrated hard enough they were able to drive a motor, pulling the spoon by a string until it eventually broke! This activity demonstrated another common neurotechnology application: the brain-machine interface (BMI), which aims to allow communication between the brain and something that is “driven” by the brain (in this case, the motor). Visitors could measure how ‘strong’ their brains were and whether they could break the spoon. But is there any spoon*?
In the second section ‘MindMelodies’, the students focused on exploring the sense of hearing. The first exhibit ‘SpiKiss’ allowed the visitors to create music with their mind! Here, brain waves were recorded once again, using an EEG headset, but this time turning the visitor’s brain into an orchestra conductor!
Different frequencies of recorded brain waves were used to control pitch and tempo of the sounds created; melodies created by relaxed brains were slower and calmer, while those with energetic thoughts were vigorous and fast.
Last but not least the students showed the visitors what their brains actually sound like! Before the Festival the students conducted an experiment in which one student was presented with series of tones, whilst his brain activity was measured via electrodes. Later the signal obtained in response to each tone was processed and could be played back to produce a sound. The students then mapped the ‘sounds of the brain’ to keys of a keyboard and allowed the visitors to see for themselves what the brain sounds like and compare it to the sounds that evoked the response!
Understanding and interpreting brain activity is one of the greatest problems in neurotechnology. In these exhibits, visitors could scratch the surface of this problem by looking for similarities between the stimulus and the brain’s response.
Congratulations to the CDT students for all their hard work, which paid off in four great activities and filled the Imperial Festival with great showcase of modern Neurotechnology!
*see Matrix movie for more.
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Department of Bioengineering