History of Brainwave Music     Composition      Mapping      Real-Time Notation      Music Therapy    Emotional Control

My interest in using brainwaves for a musical making tool came about from attending some sessions  run by the excellent Drake Music, who specialise in providing sessions and education for children and young people disabled music makers through innovative technologies. During a session I was aware of a lack of tools available for those with severe physical disabilities. All of the digital instruments, sensors, and interfaces being used required some form of physical movement. This excluded those with the most restrictive motor disabilities.

patien M playing music

Patient M playing music using the braincap

Fast forward a year and I found myself extremely lucky to be working on a collaborative project with the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disabilites (RHN), London and the University of Essex’s BCI Research Group.

Together we designed and developed a system for a patient suffering from locked-in syndrome, to allow them to play simple melodies along with backing music. Wearing a brain cap, Patient M was able to choose different styles of backing music and play melodies of different instruments over the top. The control of the music came via Patient M controlling her gaze across different icons on computer screen – her attention to the icons was measured by electrodes in a brain cap detecting brain activity corresponding to her gaze (using the SSVEP method). After our sessions she contacted us (using her speller board and therapist) via email to say:

Thank you… it felt great to be in control again”. Patient M


Here’s a recording of Patient M playing music using the brain cap:

Demo video and more information explaining the system.

The success of this initial project formed the basis of my Masters research and paved the way for my later projects and PhD thesis.

News Articles

These articles trace the origins of this project through the later work we did with Patient M and others.

BBC News – 23rd August 2017

Violinist uses brain waves to play 29 years after accident

The Metro – 6th April 2011

‘Locked in’ woman conducts own orchestra with wonder machine

The Mail Online – 30th March 2011

How a paralysed patient with locked-in syndrome was able to conduct an orchestra using only her MIND

Medical News Today – 22nd March 2011

Thoughts Make Music For Patient With Locked-in Syndrome

Nature – 18th March 2011

Music is all in the mind

Leave a Reply