Stressed? Have You Tried Muse?

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Simply put, Muse is a new-age wearable electroencephalogram (EEG), that promises a lot of relaxation, calm and focus to the wearer. Sounds almost like science fiction, but the end goal is not to turn you into an android, but training your brain to develop itself. Designed by a company called InterAxon, Muse interprets your mental activity using advanced signal processing. You are probably aware of the relaxing effects of meditation on your mind and body, and it has been proven over a number of years through thousands of studies that it is a great remedy for anxiety.

Muse takes the idea of meditation and relaxation and marries it with technology. Maybe you have tried meditation before, and even though you know exactly what is it you need to do to feel relaxed, you find it difficult to keep up with that sort of regime. This is akin to the impediment you face when you try to follow a workout routine. But now, thanks to this wonderful new device, meditating is as easy as connecting it to your brain via Bluetooth. Confused? Read on to out what it is and how it works.

What Is Muse?

Muse is a wearable device that resembles a thin headband but with the ends tucked behind your ears rather than on top of them. This is the hardware you get from the company. It has a companion app that is compatible with both iOS and Android platforms (phones and laptops) which let Muse connect through Bluetooth.

The headband has a total of 7 sensors on it; 2 behind the ears, 2 on the forehead and the remaining 3 are reference sensors that measure and detect your brain’s activity. It is adjustable, akin to adjusting headphones, and the company insists that you do so, even though it is designed to fit typical adult heads. But the company says it is important that you adjust the headband so that it applies the right amount of pressure for better signal quality.

The device is rechargeable through a micro USB port and offers 5 hours of battery life. The device itself is gentle on your head and quite flexible; and while you meditate, Muse gives you accurate feedback in real time (about your breathing, heart activity and body movements) and about what is happening inside your brain. It also encourages you to take up this practice, which does not take longer than 3-5 minutes and even rewards you for your daily achievements.

The brain’s frontal cortex is associated with impulse and judgment control, reflex and problem solving and that is one of the reasons the device sports two sensors that are placed on the forehead. The device tracks the activity on the frontal lobe, which is also the center of our ability to focus. What the device does is train the frontal lobe to keep a more focused mindset and react more calmly to impulses and promote rational thinking.

How Does Muse Work?

Muse uses the same EEG sensors which are used by doctors to measure and detect brain disorders that include Alzheimer’s, sleep disorders and epilepsy. Muse does this by making you aware of brain activity using audio and visual cues (such as the sound of waves) and trains your brain.

Once you have downloaded and installed the Muse app on your preferred device, it will take you through a built-in tutorial that will take you through the setup process. This process only has to be done once and does not have to be repeated. The next time you switch on Muse, it will be automatically connected to your device. The tutorial also tells you how to set up the band so that it sits comfortably on your head and receives the information in a proper manner.

Every time you use the device, you will have to calibrate it, and the reason is that your brain is not the same every day, and so the program needs a snapshot of it to get a baseline. Once the calibration is done, you are all set to meditate! The Muse program (and the device) corresponds to the state of your mind. If your brain is neutral, you will hear the gentle sound of waves; if it is tweeting birds you hear, it means your mind is in a calm state. When your brain goes into turmoil or wanders away, the sounds will change to say, something like a storm.

A change in the sound is an indication to bring yourself back to a calmer state. It is true that learning to control or train the mind takes some doing, but what Muse proposes to do is provide help to those with little or no experience in meditation techniques.

This is how it works:

  1. Once you have downloaded the app on your device, you will be asked either to make an account or log in from an existing one. Or, you can do so with your Google account. You will be asked if you have the Muse headphones, but even if you do not, you will still be able to log in.
  2. If you are connected to the Muse device, a calibration will start. This process is to make your brain work as fast as possible. What happens is that for the next 20-30 seconds, you will be asked to think about various topics and list them; these topics could be bodies of water, animals, famous places and so on.
  3. Once you have logged in, you will be redirected to the beautifully designed main screen, with the options to choose the length of the meditation session and the soundscape of your choice. By default, the meditation length is 5 minutes, but you can adjust it to any length (up to 3 hours). Pay attention because you want your calibration process to be as accurate as possible. If you get a good “calm score”, that means your brain is in a receptive state for some meditation.
  4. Once the calibration is done and you have the headband on, you will start getting feedback in the form of sounds, as we explained before. The feedback provided is in real time. Once your session is done, you will get a breakdown of your session, about how neutral, calm or active you were throughout.
  5. Your progress is tracked over time and lets you unlock new features as you achieve certain goals and lets you follow your progress over time. If you have used a Fitbit, you will be aware of this concept.

How Does Muse Know What State Is Your Mind In?

Your brain has a natural electric field, and when the mind is at rest, say during a meditative state, it will transmit more energy at some brain frequencies and the pattern changes as your mind goes into a neutral state. When the mind moves away from the meditative state and becomes active, Muse will read this change in the pattern.

To help guide your meditation, Muse translates these brain waves into an audio experience on your device; if you have a calm mind, you will hear sounds reflecting that, such as ocean waves. If the mind goes inactive or wanders off, this state is reflected by maybe, a thunderstorm.

Is Using Muse Safe?

Though Muse is not a clinically-certified device, it has been tested and certified in Europe, the United States and Canada, and abides by all the regulatory requirements including CE, UL, FCC and TUV.

The company claims that the sensors on the device do not cause any harm and nor have there been any contradictory reports. The company says that such technology has been used since about 100 years, and has been in use at institutions and hospitals for a long time. The collected data is sent through Bluetooth to the connected device, and that technology has been rendered safe already.

What People Like about the Muse

  • A lot of users have said that they have actually felt calm after they used Muse, so it actually works for them.
  • It comes with a very configurable, to-the-point app which is detailed and does what it is supposed to do.
  • Keeps the charge for a long time and pairs rather quickly with your preferred Android or iOS device.
  • The app and the device are very reliable and customers did not have any complaints about its connectivity.

What People Don’t Like about the Muse

  • A lot of customers have commented about the price and have concluded that it is quite on the higher side.
  • Some customers have mentioned that to get accurate readings, the band has to be worn quite tightly which may interfere with the meditation experience for some.

Conclusion

The Muse brain sensing headband is a great concept and may find a lot of takers in the future. It does not claim to be a medical device, but falls in the category of “wellness devices”. The device is not cheap, so it is not intended for everyone, but for those who are not shy to experiment with this genre of meditation and need some motivation with their meditation. Though the device is not exactly one of its kind; you can check out the competition here and here.

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