Experiments in DIY EEG

Check out the research site at Whatartistprojects.com

Two years ago I began looking into what it would take to make an Electroencephalograph (EEG) machine of my own. I had read about the open source EEG project and it got me fascinated with the prospects of exploring neurofeedback. Several months ago The George Greenstein Institute approached me to create a class. The first thing I wanted to do was finally explore the EEG machine. The idea of using quantifiable information, gleaned from the brain itself, representing it in a variety of manners — from purely aesthetic to powerful data visualization — got my mind humming with possibilities. Directly interfacing with the individual experience of perception is a terrain I had not yet been able to directly explore. Through open source hardware I was finally in a position to begin experimenting with how my own mind responds to stimuli. In addition, the format of taking the research directly to a classroom for further development amongst a background of many interests offered new possibilities for refining the technology.

I began by researching existing open source and medical systems. An EEG is a system that reads the electrical impulses at the scalp, generated by firing neurons. The raw data received is most easily rendered as a waveform, much like audio. Calculating the frequency of the signal gives you a number in Hertz (hz), the range of which describes a state of mind from relaxed, to focused, to energetic. The possibilities for visualizing meditation and controlling your environment with thought alone become feasible. After experimenting with a variety of filters and components I came to a prototype that functions as the focal point for the courses research and design.

The goal of my exploration in neurofeedback is to expand neural research from the domain of science into the language of art and theory. Rather than segregating the conversation, collaboration between the quantifying nature of science and the meaning making of art can lead to novel visions of our experience and expressions thereof. Designing approaches to perceiving our minds through a multiplicity of avenues better lends itself to new types of discoveries. As I continue my work in this field, I plan to utilize data visualization as both an expression and a tool to further my understanding of the mind. While the technology continually improves, becoming simultaneously more powerful and accessible, it will continue to ingrain itself deeper in to my practice as an artist and designer.

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