This week, Interaxon (Toronto, Canada) released their third iteration of the popular portable wearable brain wave sensor Muse. Muse 2 now includes a heart rate monitor, accelerometer, pulse oximeter and a photoplethysmogram for breathing analysis. It represents the biggest jump to date in wearable meditation technology.
In 2014 Interaxon released Muse, a wearable electroencephalogram (EEG). Traditional brain wave analysis using EEG has been a complicated and messy affair with patients’ scalps hooked up to countless sensors that deliver a pattern that requires a degree in itself to interpret. Muse was lightweight and comfortable and most importantly was designed for use with smartphones. The Muse app interprets the brain waves (alpha, beta, delta, gamma, theta) and presents this is easy to interpret graphical data. Users wear the headset whilst listening to the one of the themes of the app – for example nature sounds. If brain activity increases, the volume increases providing immediate biofeedback and stimulates the user to return to the focus of their meditation (usually the breath). Each time the user recognises this and brings the brain activity to the normal range is recorded as a ‘recovery’ and if your brain activity falls below a certain level then you hear the sound of a bird tweeting. The number of tweets is also recorded. A second lighter model with better connectivity was released in 2016.
The new headset comes with an accelerometer that measures body movements and the degree of (physical) stillness. The heart rate monitor analyses the cardiovascular response to meditation and the Muse app now comes with programs to help reduce the resting heart rate. Finally, and the most significant is the combination of pulse oximetry and photoplethysmography (PPG). Pulse oximetry gives the user a measure of the oxygen saturation in the blood stream. This is similar to those worn on the fingers of patients in hospital but gives scalp oxygen saturations, which in most situations would be identical. PPG involves optical illumination of the skin and measurements of changes of absorption of light. Conventional pulse oximetry is limited to measurement of oxygenation at dermal and subcutaneous tissue, PPG can be used to measure volumetric differences in organs in this case giving you the depth of respiration. This is in a trace that looks remarkably similar to that on an anaesthetic machine. This has huge potential in meditation training and breathing exercises as well as some forms of breathwork including but not limited to holotropic breathwork (read here).
Muse 2 connects using the Blutooth 5.0 standard, offers 5 hours of continous usage and charges using a micro USB cable. Muse and Muse 2 are compatible with a number of apps available from Interaxon and third parties and Muse 2 will be retailing at £239 in the United Kingdom. We are so impressed with this headset; our existing Muse customers will be able to obtain a replacement Muse 2 headset free of charge. We await the results of large trials taking place at M.I.T., Harvard and other institutions using this technology worldwide.
Article by Vikas Pandey