For my final project, I would like to make a brain entrainment pod wherein the user can choose two states: relaxed or focused. Each state will trigger light and sound settings that emit at frequencies associated with either the Default Mode Network or Task Positive Network, respectively. The concept is basically an updated and elaborate dream machine: the user’s exposure to pulsating light and sound will reproduce those frequencies in their brain. I will attempt to lead the brain into either the DMN or TPN by replicating the dominant frequencies present during either open monitoring meditation or focused attention meditation, respectively.
As a result, the user (theoretically) will not have to actually meditate in the traditional sense, but instead receive “treatment” that hopefully will yield the same results of meditation by an advanced practitioner. I would like to corroborate this theory by including an EEG device that measures the user’s brain activity while undergoing “treatment”. Because there is such disappointment over the reliability and price-point of open-source/consumer-grade EEGs, we will attempt to design our own device tailored to our purpose (while also preparing to purchase one if that proves to be an impossible task).
I believe light and sound will be the most effective sensory inputs for entrainment, as you can define their frequencies, but I also hope that we can hide these pulsations underneath visualizations and music that are actually aesthetically pleasing, so as to not alarm or disturb the user. Once we receive the user’s mental state via serial communication, we will generate visuals/audio based on their data. However, the stimuli won’t be a reflection of their state—it will be a response to it and their decision to either be “relaxed” or “focused”.
The visuals—generated in p5—will be projected on the walls of our dome (likely a purchased geodesic dome), and the audio will be combination of binaural beats and actual music (TBD), also generated in/played through p5.
I first became interested in brain entrainment when I discovered the Dream Machine, and kinetic light sculpture by artist Brion Gysin and engineer Ian Sommerville, circa the early 1960s. The Dream Machine was originally a cut paper cylinder placed on a record player and illuminated from the inside; the frequency of its pulsing light produced alpha activity in the brain, which is associated with relaxation.
So it should follow that we can use this method to produce any sort of activity in the brain. I’m especially interested in deactivating the DMN as a long-term therapeutic tool for depression, but for this project the user will decide what they want. (Generally, the DMN is associated with increased lower-gamma levels in the prefrontal cortex, but we will be grabbing the settings of advanced meditation practitioners for this project).
Another example is the vibroacoustic recliner (used therapeutically by Dr. George Patrick):
I became interested in EEG devices after seeing ITP alum Lisa Park’s thesis project:
Mood board for visuals:
Our project will be for users who are anxious or stressed out and need reprieve. The Winter Show is pretty chaotic, and our entrainment pod will totally immerse users in a completely different environment. Barak has dreams for it to stay at ITP permanently, so students have a nearby retreat from the floor/their crippling self-doubt.