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The Brain Project & The Baycrest Foundation

The Brain Project's display in Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square
The Brain Project’s display in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square

“There are an estimated 46.8 million people worldwide living with dementia in 2015. This number will almost double every 20 years, reaching 74.7 million in 2030 and 131.5 million in 2050”. This harrowing statistic exemplifies the importance of Baycrest, a leading research facility dedicated to studying cognitive health. Baycrest has been serving Toronto since 1918 and has quickly expanded their number of senior care centres across the world. While they have been relentlessly researching treatments for the mind, they are also looking at ways to treat the stigma. The Brain Project is Baycrest’s way of inciting interest in the cause in addition to raising money to fund further research. 

 

“The aim of a meditation practice is to centre ourselves while allowing the frontal lobes to rest and develop body awareness”

 

Scattered across Toronto are uniquely-designed brain sculptures, each decorated by artists from around the world. This city-wide art exhibition showcases the individuality of our brains and are on display for the world to see. Every brain, like the works of art that they are, was crafted with a different theme in mind. One particular artist, Toronto-native Polina Teif described her piece as “a metaphor that plays with the notion of inner reflection. In order to see the world around us clearly for what it is, we must have a clear mind with which we can reflect upon. When thoughts of various sorts enter our mind and we get caught in a reactive cycle. The aim of a meditation practice is to centre ourselves while allowing the frontal lobes to rest and develop body awareness”. As proud supporters of the merits of meditation and mental wellness, Muse sponsored Polina Teif, her brain, and her message. 

Artist Polina Teif's brain, sponsored by Muse
Artist Polina Teif’s brain, sponsored by Muse

Polina’s brain took the form of the exhibition-wide, model brain and was adorned in a reflective shell. Other brains were painted on, sculpted over, or fitted with additional items from high-profile minds such as Kim Kardashian, Matthew Bellamy, Donald Robertson, and Mr. Brainwash. The list goes on. Over 70 artists, organizations, and creative minds banded together to shed a light on the intricacies of the brain. Intricacies you can find in the meaning of the collective artwork. 

The Muse sponsored brain.

Baycrest and The Brain Project have been making a continuous effort to bring brain health to the public eye. Added to this list is the international Virtual Brain Project, a visualization model displaying functions and disorders in the brain as they occur. With so many eyes on this art exhibition, Baycrest and cognitive studies will get the attention they deserve. For more information, you can check out their Facebook and Twitter pages. If you’d like to donate to The Brain Project and Baycrest, please follow this link

Understanding your Muse Session Results

At the end of every meditation with Muse, you get a chance to reflect on the brain data your headband detected during the session. Muse’s session report lets you see how you were shifting between three different states:

  • Active: This is time spent with a wandering mind. Your attention was fluctuating.
  • Neutral: This is your natural resting state. You attention isn’t fluctuating, but you aren’t deeply focused either.
  • Calm: A deep restful focus on your breath. These are moments when you’re truly concentrated on your breath.

So in this session, you can see that I was moving back and forth between a resting state and deeper focus on my breath. That matches how I felt during the session. I was trying to focus on my breath but whenever I lost focus, Muse’s audio feedback was guiding me back to my breath, so I never ended up totally lost in thought. Pretty typical.

Here’s how to read my session report in more detail:

  1. The percentages for calm, neutral and active represent the proportion of time spent in each state during the session. Note that Muse is tailored to focused attention on breath. Other meditations may lead to unexpected results.
  2. Muse measures your brain’s natural electric field from outside your head while you meditate. This graph presents these data in a way that helps you reflect on how you were changing state over time. You can see when your mind was in each region: active, neutral, or calm.
  3. You receive 1 calm point for every second that your brain is in a natural state of rest (neutral), and 3 calm points for every second spent with deep restful focus on your breath (calm). You don’t receive any calm points for time spent active, but an active mind is an opportunity to notice your wandering mind and bring your attention back, earning yourself a recovery.
  4. Recoveries celebrate the moment when you move from active (wandering mind / fluctuating attention) to neutral (a natural state of rest). If you look at my graph, you can see a lot of peaks, but there are two in particular (around 0:05 and 1:00) where I went into the active region then recovered back into neutral. Those recoveries are key to building the skill of focused attention and integrating the benefits of meditation into your daily life.
  5. When you find a deep, restful focus on your breath for an extended period of time, you may hear birds singing quietly. Over time, you’ll learn to use the birds as a cue to settle even more deeply into focused attention.
  6. Session awards celebrate and recognize certain qualities of your session. You can earn awards for high calm %, long session lengths, lots of points/birds, and more. Tap on your awards to learn more about why you’ve received them.

No matter how your session results look, what’s important is that you spend time meditating. Try not to get into a pattern of judging your performance harshly or becoming self-critical.

Meditation with Muse is all about being curious about your experience. Simply use the data to help you reflect on your meditation and motivate yourself to commit to a daily practice. Happy Musing!

Why Patrick J. Kennedy and Amy Kennedy Support Interaxon & Muse

Patrick J. Kennedy

Former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy and Amy Kennedy are well-known advocates for mental health. After all, Patrick founded One Mind for Research and The Kennedy Forum on Community Mental Health, where Amy acts as education director and leads the organization’s objective to improve brain fitness and resilience. So it’s no surprise to hear that Patrick and Amy support Interaxon, the brain health technology company and creator of Muse, the brain-sensing headband that makes meditation easy.
Read more

Meditation Research News

You may have heard anecdotally that meditation is good for you, but increasingly, studies are showing just how and why it’s so effective for the brain and overall health. From lowering stress and anxiety to boosting your grey matter and control over thoughts and emotions, meditation clearly offers many positive mental health effects. Review some of the recent research and check with your healthcare practitioner to find out if meditation is right for you. Read more