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What Happens When You Mix Minecraft, Muse & Neuroscience?

Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal at the University of Houston

Everyone knows that kids are crazy for Minecraft, the hugely popular sandbox game that lets them create virtual worlds from their imagination. Now, scientists are harnessing that obsession into invaluable neuroscience research using Muse, the brain sensing headband.

Dr. Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal is the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Non-Invasive Brain Machine Interface Systems Laboratory at the University of Houston. He and his team are international leaders in the field of rehabilitation robotics, neuroprosthetics, wearable exoskeletons and brain-machine interfaces. (Allowing disabled people to control prosthetics or mobility enhancing exoskeletons with their own mind, for instance.)

Contreras-Vidal is leading a massive, multi-year study partnering with museums in Houston, Texas, in which children and adults are invited to participate in creative exhibits and activities while wearing mobile EEG headsets such as Muse headbands. The study will help map the brain and explore the neural basis of creativity by conducting EEG on over 1,000 individuals. As a wireless Bluetooth device, Muse allows for large-scale neuroscience experiments that, compared with typical lab studies, expand sample size and generalizability significantly.

“Muse is a highly portable system that allows quick set-up and recordings—EEG and head motion—which is essential for recording in public settings,” says Dr. Contreras-Vidal. “Little is known about the variability and individuality of brain activity as it occurs in public settings, and much less in children. We hope our studies will provide valuable data that will help advance our understanding of brain mechanisms and brain function.”

The first instance of the experiment took place on August 15th. Children and teens came to Children’s Museum Houston and played Minecraft while wearing Muse. “We suspect our work will provide insights on how children play the game, including differences in skill level and concentration or attentional levels.”

In addition to similar events at the Blaffer Art Museum, Contreras-Vidal and his team will also be taking high-density EEG readings from professional artists as they work. Identifying the neural patterns of the creative process would be an incredible neuroscience breakthrough.

“Muse lets us conduct research with a large number of diverse individuals in action and in context, without disturbing their experience at museums, outdoors and elsewhere,” explains Contreras-Vidal. “The applications are unbounded. Muse is clearly interested in exploring research applications with their devices, and has been very responsive in helping us deploy Muse in our work.”

Interested to find out how Muse could enhance your research program? The Muse Professionals Program gives scientists, doctors, clinics, counselors and coaches an innovative way to introduce meditation and affordable EEG measurement into their study and practice. Email professionals@choosemuse.com to find out more.

Photo courtesy of the University of Houston.


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