Paralyzed woman conducts orchestra with her mind

A British woman with locked-in syndrome has been able to conduct an orchestra using just the power of her thoughts.

The woman is only able to make eye, facial and slight head movements orllowing a stroke which left her paralyzed.

But, monitored using electroencephalography (EEG), she wore a cap with electrodes which picked up different patterns in her brainwaves depending on what she was looking at on a screen – in this case objects flickering at different frequencies.

This ‘frequency-following’ effect was then adapted so that the different frequencies related to different musical instruments which the patient operated with her eyes. After a couple of hours of the trial, the patient was able to play a mini orchestra solo, just by brainpower alone.

“She later said the experiment made her feel back in control again for the first time since her stroke,” says Dr Palani Ramaswamy of Essex University’s School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering.

“But what made this trial so innovative was that the intensity of how she was looking at the screen in terms of concentration offered even more control and, in this case, more notes for each instrument.”

The trial was the first of its kind to be conducted with the help of a disabled person, rather than in the laboratory.