Focus-Science and Technology - - Discoveries -

Beethoven fa­mously com­posed sev­eral of his master­pieces while he was essen­tially deaf – but surely even he would be im­pressed with this piece of re­search. A team at TU Graz in Vienna has cre­ated a brain- com­puter in­ter­face, or BCI, that al­lows mu­si­cians to com­pose us­ing just the power of their thoughts.

Based on an es­tab­lished BCI that is used to en­able se­verely dis­abled peo­ple to write, the sys­tem works by flash­ing up a se­ries of op­tions – notes, pauses, chords etc – onto a screen placed in front of the user. When the pa­tients fo­cus on their de­sired op­tions, minute changes oc­cur in their brain waves. These changes are picked up by a spe­cial cap fit­ted with elec­trodes, and re­layed back into the soft­ware, which then pieces the user’s de­ci­sions to­gether to form a mu­si­cal score of their com­po­si­tion. The project could even­tu­ally give phys­i­cally im­paired peo­ple an op­por­tu­nity to ex­press them­selves with mu­sic, the team says.

“The re­sults of the BCI com­po­si­tions can re­ally be heard. And what is more im­por­tant: the test per­sons en­joyed it. Af­ter a short train­ing ses­sion, all of them could start com­pos­ing and see­ing their melodies on the score, and then play them. The very pos­i­tive re­sults of the study with bod­ily healthy test per­sons are the first step in a pos­si­ble ex­pan­sion of the BCI com­po­si­tion to pa­tients,” said study leader Prof Ger­not Müller-Putz.

A com­peti­tor uses a brain- com­puter in­ter­face at 2016’s Cy­bathlon Cham­pi­onship

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