Muse headband

When I was in college in the early 70s, biofeedback was a hot topic. Along with Transcendental Meditation, experimenters were curious about using EEG readings to train users to reach a relaxed state. Wearable technology has made such devices more affordable, such as the Muse headband.

The rechargeable device pairs with your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, and the app guides you through some mental exercises that you practice once a day. Each session can take 3 to 20 minutes, and reports your brain activity to the app for analysis and reporting. According to the company website, the device uses dry sensors — no messy conductive gel required — and it monitors five bands of brain activity. This is a passive device that simply senses your brain patterns; you practice calming your mind and use the results to measure your progress. Muse claims that this practice can improve your emotional state and help you focus in your daily life. The website sites a study that showed that such training for just three days can reduce pain, reduce anxiety, reduce heart rate, and improve mood.

At $300, it’s not likely to be an impulse buy for most users, but it does appear to be based on sound principles and could help users strengthen their control over their minds. And thinking back on my college days, I think it could also be interesting to monitor my own brain as I conduct different activities. Would it show a difference between my brain function when I’m writing, or reading, or playing music? This could lead to some interesting hacks by experimenters.