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Muse in the News: Can this headband read your mind to help you relax?

Last week we were lucky enough to be covered by CTV News to learn if “a techy Canadian headband can read your mind to help you relax.”

Throughout their investigation they took the time to interview not only members of our own team here at Muse, but also professionals in the field such as Dr. Steven Selchen, head of mindfulness-based therapies at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and McMaster University psychology professor Allison Sekuler to speak to some of the skepticism that Muse has faced.

eeg test, meditation apps
Allison Sekuler, original image from www.ctvnews.ca

They discuss how our brainwave-sensing headband uses electroencephalography (EEG) activity going on in your brain combined with real-time auditory feedback to help train the user to understand when they have lost focus or when their mind wanders.

In a quote from our own Jay Vityarthi he explains how the headband isn’t supposed to be some sort of  “magic bullet”, but a way to quickly help train users to learn meditation.

He states: “It’s not like you put this headband on and you float . . . it just makes it easier to form a habit,” Jay Vityarthi, the head of user experience design for Muse, told CTV News. “You’ve got professional sports teams, you’ve also got executives and high-level decision makers who are using it. These are people who are under a lot of mental pressure.”

As with any practice, longer and more frequent sessions are said to cause positive changes in the brain, like decreasing amygdala activity associated with the body’s stress response.

eeg test, meditation apps
Jay Vityarthi, Muse Designer. Original image from www.ctvnews.ca.

The meditation aid can also pair with smartphones so users can track their progress with color-coded charts.

Since our launch over 2 years ago, the academic community is starting to take notice. CTV took the time to interview McMaster University psychology professor Allison Sekuler and her experience with the Muse headband.  She states that she has long understood the benefits of meditation but lacked the discipline to adopt the habit. Now, she relies on Muse to help her stay mindful of distractions and achieve an optimal meditative state.

“Initially I was quite skeptical,” she said. “The more I used it, the more I realized this could help me control my thoughts and be more productive in meetings and everyday life.”

CTV notes that the global market for wearable tech is set to top US$14 billion in 2016, and grow to $34 billion by 2020, according to research from CSS Insights.  “People are recognizing that jogging or running or exercise is good for the heart. They’re (also) recognizing it is equally important to exercise the mind,” said our InteraXon CEO, Derek Luke.


Healthy Skepticism: Some mindfulness experts skeptical

CTV points out that similar devices to Muse are currently on the market — NeuroSky’s MindWave Mobile is one such EEG device. It has a single sensor and an entry-level price of $100, vs the 5 sensors found with the Muse headband. Emotiv Insight, at $659, is more advanced, with five sensors as well.

While EEG devices are being applauded by industry observers for injecting high tech into a centuries-old tradition, some meditation purists are not convinced.

eeg test, meditation apps
Dr. Steven Selchen, Sunnybrook Health Sciences. Original image from www.ctvnews.ca

In an interview with Dr. Steven Selchen, who is the head of mindfulness-based therapies at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto he states: “I am cautious about the utility of certain kinds of products,” he said. “We really need to see what research says to know how useful they are for people.”Like the health experts who say there is little evidence that fitness wearables lead to lasting weight loss, he questions the ability of gadgets to reproduce the same results as the ancient practice.

We have been fortunate to have some promising research that assess the headband’s ability to reduce stress among breast cancer patients and to help those with anxiety and depression. The device has even been used by researchers at the University of Victoria to analyze the brain waves of meditating monks.

The topic of “gamification” being an issue also arose — Selchen worries assigning numbers and values to meditation, effectively turning it into another computer game, could defeat its purpose: “A lot of the devices that may be out there are really focused on training in a very goal-oriented way,” he said. “If that is challenging for people to do . . . that can play into their self-criticism. ‘I am not getting this right. I am not good at this. I am a failure.’ And that can actually pull them even further away from what we are trying to train in a meditation setting.”

CTV further confirms that surveys have shown that more adults are intrigued with the idea of brain relaxation, but don’t have the time to attend classes for traditional training. Proponents suggest that devices like Muse offers a potential short-cut while science determines if technology-assisted meditation is as good as the real thing.

Originally Published Saturday, December 3, 2016 10:52 PM EST by Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca.

Original article can be found HERE.

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