Mickey Hart, former percussionist, for the Grateful Dead, dons an electrode-studded cap at the beginning of every show and controls his performance’s light show with only his mind. These caps record brain waves, also known as electroencephalography data, which in turn drive the light show at his concerts. Images of the musician’s brain also soar 40 feet in the air and change color to reflect different types of brain waves detected by the EEG.
Thinking about moving a body part makes cells in an area of the brain called the motor cortex produce tiny electrical currents. The cap sends this information to a computer, which translates it into directions.
Hart was led to brain science because of his grandmother’s dementia. For years, she didn’t seem to recognize him and largely stopped speaking unless he played his drums for her, something which he said caused her to say his name.
Why I’m Curious: Beyond being a Grateful Dead fan, I’m particularly interested in electroencephalography and its huge potential to not just improve drug-induced concert experiences for hippies but to augment the way humans interact with technology and ultimately, to make things previously thought impossible occur, especially for those unable to do so with their own limbs and appendages.
We’ve already witnessed researchers at the University of Minnesota controlling a “quadcoper” with their mind. But how about using this technology to control artificial limbs, wheelchairs, and other devices? It’s exciting to think about the vast improvements this technology will make to the quality of life for those physically handicapped individuals who can’t use the simple day-to-day devices and machinery that most of us take for granted.