EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

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Ben Turale, modified 6 Years ago.

EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 11 Join Date: 9/9/09 Recent Posts
Hi all - recently I got the Interaxon Muse headset which measures EEG output, some other stuff and combines it into a score for 'calm'.  Thought it would be a fun and new way to interact with meditation and perhaps even hone my technique a little.

I've had one for three days now and seem to be at odds with it.  Right now I am trying to understand why it is telling me that my meditation is spent with about 90% of the time being "active" with very little time spent "calm" (less than 2 mins in one session apparently).

I mean, I've been meditating every day since mid 2007, I've done long retreats.  I don't consider myself the most enlightened guy on this website by any means, but my practice has definitely been at a point for a long time where it consistently gives me a sense of freedom and calm whenever I sit down to do it.

Yet when I sit down with this device and follow the instructions (count your breaths on every out breath up to 10) I'm sitting there after a few minutes feeling lovely and relaxed yet the device is generating feedback in the form of strong wind sounds (indicating I am not present or calm supposedly).  I wonder how accurate this technology is.  I think back to teachers I have had from the mahasi, zen and other traditions.  The sense I got from their teachings is that the TYPE of content is not what sets you free, but your RELATIONSHIP to it.  So I wonder if the form of measurement these devices are set to look for e.g. alpha or theta waves etc isn't really an accurate measure of how calm or present you are?  To put it another way, two people could be having the same thought - an external threat like an assignment due tomorrow.  But surely it is not the presence of thought itself (i.e. in beta waves) that measures calm?

Any input or experiences other people have with the muse, I'd be very interested to hear.
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Not Tao, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 997 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
Can you set it to measure gamma waves?  I bet you'll see a difference.  It's a common misconception that calm abiding meditation creates lower frequency brainwaves.  That's a better measure of whether you're falling asleep.  Gamma waves spike in concentration meditation (according to the studies I've read about it).

EDIT: I looked on the website and it said it measures how much your brainwaves fluctuate, so IDK. Hard to say if there's real science behind this, TBH...
Kim Lentz, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 3 Join Date: 3/6/14 Recent Posts
I got a Muse headset for Christmas this year and I have had the same experience as you.  Although I feel very "calm" the readings are at the top of the active chart.   You can't see the raw EEG data using the "Calm" app, but you can download the SDK that supposedly allows you to read the raw data.  I downloaded the SDK, but I cannot figure out how to use it (yet).  I love the idea of the device, but the "Calm" app isn't useful at this point. I am hoping that someone develops a different application for the device like a game or something.
David Daiku Trowbridge, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Post: 1 Join Date: 8/28/15 Recent Posts
Ben, 

I know how you feel, as I had a similar experience. I had the highest "calm" scores when I turned off the sound and turned over my phone so I couldn't see the screen. Then, doing simple zazen with eyes open, fixing the gaze at a point on the floor and counting my breaths resulted in "calm" scores in the high 90's.

I then went on to install the Muse SDK on my computer, started writing some programs to display and analyze the recordings and did some simple experiments with various meditative and non-meditative conditions. I report the results so far at,

http://still-breathing.net

Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

David
Mike H., modified 5 Years ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 72 Join Date: 1/4/13 Recent Posts
David - I did just get the chance to borrow someone's Muse headband.  Like you, I found that my results varied.

I was just looking at the muse app and the three categories of active/neutral/calm that it describes.  With Mahasi style noting, and a wide focus, I tended to bounce up and down quickly between all three categories.  a rapid oscillation.

When I backed off and took a more breath focused, relaxed approach, I would sometimes get high "calm" scores and "birds".  I would sort of gravitate into the 'calm' range and just stay there, without going into the other two ranges, getting a fair number of the birds. 

However, in other meditation sessions, with the same focused, relaxed technique, I would be going along steadily in either the 'neutral' or 'active' categories.  In one session, I was focused on the breath but was almost entirely 'active' without any variation and only 3% 'calm'.  But I felt pretty calm, subjectively.

Over several sessions, the profile of my brain activity seemed to clearly reflect my meditative technique/breadth of attention, but the zone (calm/neutral/active) seemed to vary just by happenstance. 

If I had to speculate, I would say that the calm/neutral/active zones might correllate to stages of insight.  In one 7 minute session, I had a pretty clear transition from being entirely 'calm' to entirely 'neutral'.  When I was solely in the 'active' state in another session, I had been doing some close mindfulness already that day.

Maybe in 10 years meditation science will be farther along?  It seems like we have an good piece of hardware but I am not confident that the company's focus on the 'calm' score is really the way to go.  Is that your overall take?
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Squirrel Master, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 28 Join Date: 7/8/11 Recent Posts
Hi All,

I thought about buying the muse, but from your comments so far i could read that it didnt really help u with meditation praxis !?  I saw on the muse website that there is an update for the App with more meditation exercises... did anyone tried it?

What im really looking for would be an app that gives me a peep signal as soon im loosing the meditation object and drifting into thinking, is there any such feature with the mose?
Malte, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 2 Join Date: 2/25/16 Recent Posts
I just tried the muse daily for 2 weeks with mixed results:

- Despite my meditation experience I got results between 1%-40% calmness.
- In some sessions, I experienced a correlation between the feedback and subjective experienced depth, sometimes not. When I did, I experienced the auditive feedback extremely helpful. Variations during the calibration phase didn't seem to have an effect.
- 2 friends tried it as well and got results of 18-40% calmness, also without much of an experience of a correlation between focus on the breath and the audio feedback.
- The results with the option "counting breaths" seem to be a little bit better than with the focus on the sensations - I assume that this option is a little less 'sensitive' as the counting is a thought content(?)
- another friend tried 3min of counting with a result of 80% calmness. She doesn't have much meditation experience and said that this mindstate didn't feel very attractive, being rather dull.
- Science seems to be ambivalent about it as well: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-myths/201302/read-paying-100s-neurofeedback-therapy-0

I just asked muse support about this and will post their answer.
Thomas Jordan, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 2 Join Date: 5/5/16 Recent Posts
Interesting to read about your experiences with the Muse. I am using it since about two weeks, and I am still trying to figure out how it works. Interaxon people are not very forthcoming about what is actually measured and what experiences people make. I just started a facebook group called Muse headband user forum, in order to provide an opportunity to continually exchange experiences among users. And maybe figure out more about what the Muse measures. If you are interested, please consider joining. 
Malte, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 2 Join Date: 2/25/16 Recent Posts
So, the Interaxon team took a while to reply without really answering my questions. I wrote a second email, below is their reply, which again is not really satisfying. The question why they don't simply advertise with quotes from longterm practioners who say it's working was not answered.
I'd be really happy to hear from someone with jhanic or solid access concentrations skills to see whether the device can measure concentration in meditation...

==

"closed both during the calibration and during the session. This has the
biggest impact on accuracy since the app can interpret eye movement and
visual processing as an active mind which will affect the results.

We also have a feature we call the historical model. This looks at 10
past sessions to get more data, if a person has shared their account, or
was experimenting with Muse rather than doing sessions in earnest -
this can cause unexpected results that get locked into the model. If you
suspect there is an issue with the historical model, we can turn off
this feature, and turn it back on at a later date.

There are many different types of meditation, Muse is specifically attempting to measure calm focused attention.

Muse detects a full range of brainwave activity. Brainwaves are
typically broken up into five bands and the Muse headband is capable of
detecting all five bands. The five bands are:

· Delta waves which are most present during sleep.

· Theta waves which are associated with sleep, very deep relaxation, and visualization.

· Alpha waves which occur when relaxed and calm.

· Beta waves which occur when, for example, actively thinking or problem-solving.

· Gamma waves which occur when involved in higher mental activity and consolidation of information.

In creating the Muse app, we started from these brainwaves and then
spent years doing intensive research on higher-order combinations of
primary, secondary and tertiary characteristics of raw EEG data and how
they interact with focused-attention meditation.

The specific algorithms and signal processing methods we've developed
for use in Muse are proprietary and under evaluation with a number of
neuroscience and psychology research labs around the world. We will
share clinical and scientific results as they become available."
Thomas Jordan, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 2 Join Date: 5/5/16 Recent Posts
Malte, it seems Interaxon has a standard mail they send out to inquiries such as yours. I got an answer to my questions with exactly the same formulations as you pasted, which did not respond to my questions. This does not increase the trust in the device ... 
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Paul Anthony, modified 3 Years ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 71 Join Date: 6/22/10 Recent Posts
HI folks, 

Is anybody interested in resuscitating this thread? I got hold of one of these things used and have been playing around and looking into it a bit further. Couple of things: 

 - Some of the comments above refer to Muse's own app (which is actually called Calm or something) but you can use the headband with other software as a general purpose neurofeedback device. This may be more worth looking at b/c as far as I can see, the app is really not designed for people who can already do jhanas, etc.  Their algorithm will probably just be confused by that.  So far, for me personally the app is useful for maybe access concentration but beyond that I'm really not sure. 

 - A further issue is that the Muse app works by establishign a baseline through a 30 sec calibration phase and then noting deviation from baseline. Supposedly, the difficulty is that regular meditators will get into quite a calm focused state just by closing their eyes and sitting during calibration. So the baseline will in one sense be "off".  Muse users who know a bit about meditation apparently get around this by gaming the calibration in various ways so that they get useful feedback. Interaxon have supposedly made changes to the calibration algorithm due to complaints like those above but I suggest that this is never going to be a satisfactory approach for serious meditators. 

 - There are apparently a few serious meditators using the device with non-Interaxon software, including David above. Anybody else out there? I'd be interested in comparing notes on software, useful feedback, etc. 
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Jan Pavuk, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 53 Join Date: 11/6/17 Recent Posts
Hi all,

thank you for sharing your opinions and experience. It has been some time since you have experimented with the neurofeedback meditation with Muse.

How would you evaluate the benefit of using such device in general?

I am asking because I am considering to use neurofeedback to improve my training. The Muse 2 is out, and there are also other options which seem to be targeted at researchers, so there is a chance they actually might be better (e.g. Epoc+ from Emotive)

Do let me know if somebody would like to investigate the benefits of use of these devices more in depth

Jan 
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Paul Anthony, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 71 Join Date: 6/22/10 Recent Posts
Hi Jan, 
I've concluded that the Muse device and its internal app "does something" but unfortunately we don't know what b/c the inner workings of the app are proprietary. There are a couple of third party apps that get more data from the Muse. MindMonitor is one, Myndlift is another. Very different business models and pricing. I went with Myndlift and am finding it helpful. 

As a piece of hardware, some researchers say the Muse is no good (signal to noise ratio) others say it's professional grade and I don't really know how to settle the matter at this point. But these newer (and usually more expensive) options that you mention should help clarify. 

Also, I'd recommend checking out Jeff Tarrant's work as an accessible intro to neurofeedbacked informed practice. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=841&v=zaEzpCusdWU&feature=emb_logo

Hope this helps, Paul
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Lewis James, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 155 Join Date: 5/13/15 Recent Posts
I take it from your answer you've not found any open source tools that will just expose an API to whatever language? It seemed like there were a bunch of those projects for the older Muse iteration but not the current ones.
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Paul Anthony, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 71 Join Date: 6/22/10 Recent Posts
I gather it's tricky because there are multiple Muse versions, and recently Interaxon has stopped supporting the SDK. James Clutterbuck's Mind Monitor app still works I think but it doesn't do the final signal processing you would need for neurofeedback (e.g. "play a sound if the alpha on electrode x is this much higher than baseline").  I think you have to use an OSC output from Mind Monitor and process it somewhere else. 

So an easier route might be to use Open EEGs simple four channel amplifier board, electrodes and open source software for about the same price as a Muse. However, you would still need to figure out that last signal processing step. There are various software solutions, most of them on Windows only.  

The oldest Muses seem to have two external electrode ports, and I have a couple of them, so I'll probably try to do something with them. 
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gem, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 4 Join Date: 10/16/20 Recent Posts
Hi there,

It seems like Muse devs fixed calibration since 2015. IMHO the "mind meditation" mode of the app rewards a specific state that in my internal vocabulary is called "a mud". It takes me about 15 minutes to go from this muddy state of mind into more clear while preserving focus and attention, and still being rewarded by birds (that I'm disabling in app settings by decreasing their volume to 0).

I tried the following practices with Muse 2:

- Metta Bhavana,
- Zazen (with eyes open and following the breath),
- Access concentration (bodily sensation of breathing as an object, then comfort as an object).

My motivation to get the gadget was a need to somehow systematize and classify my practice using objective/intersubjective indicators and evaluation points. In my life I tried guided concentration (1yr), mahamudra ngöndro and shine/laktong (5yrs), zazen (2yrs). Since the Covid pandemic I decided to make my practice more systematic and started browsing the web looking for EEG devices I could connect to my computer and get some data that can be comparable and let me know if I'm going it right. Due to the cost of professional devices I got Muse 2 because its advertized "for meditation" purpose. Also, there are a few apps for iPhone that allow one to get CSV with sensor data and/or generate nice charts or even videos.

BTW, while waiting for the headband I shared my concerns with my friend who pointed me to MCTB and that's how I found this forum. emoticon The knowledge in the book was kind of brightening and allowed me to see some common factors in practices I did through my life. (Though I haven't got through first 100 pages yet since I'm currently trying to get the (dh-)janic experience mentioned in a meditative setting.)

Ok, to the point. The best results I've got with Muse 2 were during zazen sitting and following the breath. "Observing" exhalation was more effective in getting "bird points" than inhalation or inhalation/exhalation. Controlling the breathing (by deepening it and making it a bit longer) during first minute or two was also effective. The problem was I had to alter my practice and made it a bit "muddy" since the most number of "birds" I was getting when slowing down processess in my body-mind.

After couple of days I realized that after about 10 or 15 minutes of practice there comes moment when everything seems very ordinary and unaltered (in terms of state of mind), yet the concentration and measured level of calm remain the same. After that bright moment the control can be lowered yet the sharpness required for the practice remains.

So after about 2 weeks of adjustments I was able to get 100% calm levels in the original application [attachment 1]:



To achieve that kind of calm level in Muse app I had to apply some initial control (deepening the breath and going back to breathing whenever a thought was arising, leaving the thought behind as an "undeveloped scrap"). However that approach at the beginning of practice creates some extra tension and the mentioned muddy state (as a result of unnatural effort and narrowing the attention) so it has to be worked around later. It's like if you want to have this "bird points" and maximum level of calm you have to create a little problem and counteract it later – which may seem a bit of odd from the perspective of "Right Concentration". emoticon

BTW, when doing Metta Bhavana or Tonglen practices the original app identifies the state as "neutral" and/or "active" with very little "calm" and I haven't even tried to alter it in order to get more "bird points".

After about a month I started using Muse app as timer (without any biofeedback) for ~70% of sessions. Couple of days ago I began playing with another app (for iOS) called Wave. It dumps brainwave frequencies to CSV or renders them as quicktime movies. There is also Mind Monitor (highly configurable and with fancy types of charts). For me it's a way of testing how different types of meditative practices affect brainwave activity in different ways. So for concentration on an object I can see alpha freq. as dominant but when comfortable feeling becomes an object then theta freq. starts to increase. But definetly I won't alter my practice in order to get more "bird points" instead of piti or dhjana. emoticon

cheers
gem
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gem, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: EEG with the Interaxon Muse headset

Posts: 4 Join Date: 10/16/20 Recent Posts
Here you can find my translated review of Muse headband with some tips on how to get the raw data out of the device:

https://randomseed.io/rna/eeg-is-chasing-foamy-waves-meditation-experiment/

(Big thanks to Erik for proofreading.)

gassho!

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