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Questions and Answers on NeuroSky MindWave Mobile neuroheadset in the context of meditation practice


NeuroSky MindWave Mobile 2 headset

Here are the most frequently asked questions and answers on NeuroSky neuroheadsets. General issues of EEG meditation and various applications are described in this article.

Firstly it is necessary to clarify that the answers to various technical questions on the use of NeuroSky neuroheadsets of various versions are given in English on this page. This article discusses the use of the NeuroSky neuroheadset primarily in the practice of meditation and with an emphasis on typical questions of meditators.

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1. Is it true that the NeuroSky neuroheadset reads an EEG (electroencephalogram)? Or maybe it's all not true? After all, a medical electroencephalograph costs $ 5,000 $ 50,000, and this headset is only $ 100 (since 2011 till 2019, $ 110 or more in 2021 from time to time here)? Maybe it only reads the myogram (electrical impulses of the muscles), or even takes data out of blue?

Answer: The NeuroSky neuroheadset actually reads an EEG (electroencephalogram). At its core, this is a real single-channel electroencephalograph. Scientific and technical progress and miniaturization of microelectronics made it possible to create a relatively cheap household consumer version of such a device. Since 2011, NeuroSky has sold more than 4 million of neuroheadsets and TGAM modules (27.9 mm x 15.2 mm x 2.5 mm in size), which is the basis of the neuroheadset, providing EEG reading and data output to the COM port for further transmission via Bluetooth or other methods, and which is used in a variety of devices of other companies. As in the case with any professional electroencephalograph, to obtain the most reliable EEG data, the neuroheadset requires wiping the contacts and skin in appropriate places with an alcohol disinfection pad before the session of meditation. At the same time, the neuroheadset uses modern dry contacts and does not require the application of a conductive gel on the head. This scientific study confirms that the quality of EEG reading with the NeuroSky neuroheadset is not inferior to such professional medical electroencephalographs as B-Alert X24 and Enobio 20, second only in the number of EEG channels. It should be noted that it is for meditators that one EEG channel is sufficient, since in a healthy brain the dominance of the alpha rhythm in the state of shamatha meditation is observed on all upper parts of the head.

2. Or maybe this neuroheadset is recording something in my brain? What if it zombies me?

Answer: The neuroheadset is essentially a single-channel electroencephalograph. It only reads the electrical impulses of your neurons from the surface of the head. It cannot send any electrical impulses to the electrodes and, in principle, cannot stimulate the brain with electrical signals, even if some programmer would like to develop an application for this. The NeuroSky neuroheadset is not a mind machine that electrically stimulates the brain in the vain hope of achieving long-term constructive results. According to Buddhism and Hinduism, the brain is secondary to consciousness, and therefore trying to influence the brain electrically or chemically to improve consciousness is like trying to put a cart in front of a horse. A possible short-term illusion of the success of this approach is associated with the accelerated consumption of hormones and neurotransmitters, which exposes their reserves and leads to a deterioration in brain functioning in the long term when they are regularly depleted. The neuroheadset only shows the degree of your own meditation skill. It is simply neurological feedback to grope for the state of meditation.

3. Why do I need a neuroheadset? I already meditate for a month / year / 10 years and do yoga / teach yoga. And I can track the thoughtlessness myself.

Answer: Meditation is a delicate process of purposeful and controlled activity of consciousness. About 10 years ago, before the advent of neuroheadsets, massive objective control of the presence of a state of meditation was technically impossible, and over the century of popularization of meditation in the West, many myths about meditation and actual cargo cults have arisen. There are many examples of people who believe that they have been meditating every day for years (and that's not counting even more who claim to meditate every day), but, in reality, they only sit on the meditation mat, and actually they dont know how to meditate. In addition, thoughtlessness alone does not guarantee meditation. And again, a delicate balance of mind is necessary between states of increased activity and fatigue / drowsiness ("sinking of the mind", also here). Just as it is impossible to immediately learn to walk the rope, so beginning meditators constantly skip a state of meditation, being unable to maintain this "balance" of the mind. In addition, meditation is a state of not just thoughtlessness, but thoughtlessness-2.0, which requires an additional subtle conscious effort (or determination) to ensure maximum peace of mind, the need for which is difficult to understand alone without a clairvoyant meditation guru or a neuro-headset. Neuroheadsets are a revolution in the study of meditation. Previously, for such a task, you would need a clairvoyant guru who would have to tell you every day that at this moment you are in a state of meditation, and after 2 seconds you completely (or half) left it.

4. Will this neuroheadset meditate for me? Will I wear it and immediately become a Buddha?

Answer: No, the neuroheadset can only exactly to determine whether you yourself are in a state of meditation, and to what extent. It cannot and will never meditate instead of you. Alas, you have to meditate yourself. But, thanks to neurofeedback, the neuroheadset allows you to accelerate the self-sustained study of meditation. With the help of a neuroheadset, you can catch moments of being in meditation and learn to be in them more often. Meditation is a skill that develops slowly. The neuroheadset can be compared to collapsible dumbbells, which, by itself, simply being in the same room with you, will not change you. At the same time, without a neuroheadset, there is a chance to wander in the dark and never really begin to meditate.

5. The headset has some ready-made "meditation" parameter, which is used by many applications and every second shows the level of meditation in percent. Is this some kind of brain rhythm? What is this all about?

Answer: These are not the values of any one of the rhythms of the brain, but the aggregate parameter. The algorithm for calculating the values of the meditation parameter once a second, based on the values of all brain rhythms, was developed by NeuroSky as a result of many years of research of 14 masters of meditation, including Buddhist monks with extensive experience in meditation, and is not publicly available. The values of the algorithm are calculated microprogrammatically inside the TGAM module and are issued by the neuroheadset once a second, and are not calculated programmatically in applications based on raw EEG data (unlike, for example, the Muse neuroheadset).

6. What brain rhythms are associated with the meditation parameter? And how exactly?

Answer: The algorithm for calculating the meditation parameter once a second, as indicated earlier, is not publicly available. Judging by the experience of using the NeuroSky neuroheadset, in fact, the meditation parameter depends on the ratio of the alpha low (Alpha1) rhythm values (increasing in meditation) and the beta high (Beta2) rhythm (decreasing in meditation). Active Beta2 rhythm is typical for the noisy non-meditating mind with thoughts. At the same time, high values of the rhythms Gamma2 (gamma high) and Gamma1 (gamma low), possibly increase not only the values of the attention parameter, but also meditation. Active Alpha2 rhythm also has a positive effect on meditation (but perhaps to a lesser extent than Alpha1), while active Beta1, Theta, and Delta rhythms decrease the value of the meditation parameter. It is possible that the TGAM module (inside the neuroheadset) analyze not the ready-made rhythms values, but directly the raw EEG that it receives at the input, for example, assessing the level of meditation by the presence of certain teeth of an electroencephalogram of a certain shape, or by other parameters of the EEG signal. An analysis of the rhythm values per second during numerous long (at least for 15 seconds) continuous periods of one hundred percent values of the "meditation" parameter showed a noticeable and not entirely clear scatter of the rhythms values and their interrelations, with the general tendency for Alpha1 rhythm to dominate. In addition, the calculation of the meditation parameter is based on the rhythms values for the last few seconds, and not just for one last second. Moreover, the technical delay between the state of mind and the value of the meditation parameter is 0.5-2 seconds. At the end of this article, an example is given with brain rhythms for 25 seconds of continuous 100% meditation. If you are not satisfied with the ready-made "meditation" parameter, then there is an excellent NeuroExperimenter application for experimenting with different interpretations of rhythms and their combinations. When using this application, an attempt was made to restore the formula for the "meditation" parameter, more on this at the end of the article.

Screenshot of the free EEG Meditation application for Windows

7. What kind of meditation does this meditation parameter show dhyana, shamatha, metta, visualization meditation, Maharishi TM or something else?

Answer: There are currently no direct statements by NeuroSky about what meditation the algorithm of the meditation parameter is set to (or according to which it is calibrated). Based on some statements by company representatives and the experience of using the neuroheadset by various users, it can be concluded that the meditation parameter corresponds to shamatha the basic meditation of Buddhism, and also, in general, dhyana the basic yogic meditation (raja yoga). Also, it actually corresponds to Maharishi TM (Transcendental Meditation). The training of these two basic meditations shamatha in Buddhism and dhyana in yoga is the most difficult initial stage of practice, which usually stretches over years, decades or many lives.

8. Why to train basic meditation shamatha or dhyana for so long? Why not to start immediately with the more useful vipashyana and samyamas?

Answer: The effectiveness of subsequent practices self-inquiry, vipashyana in Buddhism and various samyamas in yoga depends on the current mastery in shamatha and dhyana. The better the ability to meditate, the clearer the state of consciousness and its ability to what is called concentration in Buddhism (which can be interpreted as penetrating clarity), the greater the result can be achieved in subsequent practices. In Buddhism, it is believed that the duration of stay in shamatha without a single thought should be brought up to 3-4 hours. If a person is not able to stay for at least a few minutes in a state of meditation without the meditation parameter falling below 80% -90%, then there is no point in talking about the effectiveness of subsequent practices, since these will be mainly the usual play of mind. Understanding ideas on a mental level is the activity of the mind-manas, which is inert in nature and operates with labels instead of the direct awareness of the discourse essence of things, in contrast to buddhi (vijnanamaya-kosha) with its ability to catch the new ideas, which slowly develops in the process of meditation practice. Understanding transcendental ideas only at the level of the mind resembles a cargo cult of spirituality and self-development.

9. Does the neuroheadset read my thoughts? What if someone finds out what Im thinking about?

Answer: No, the neuroheadset is not physically able to read thoughts. The issue of technical reading of thoughts is still unresolved even with using the most expensive equipment.

10. There are NeuroSky neuroheadsets of different colors and different versions. What is the difference?

At the time of this writing, 4 main versions of the NeuroSky neuroheadset are available, as well as several versions of similar neuroheadsets of the Sichiray Chinese (Wuxi) company. The white NeuroSky MindWave headset does not have a Bluetooth and communicates with its USB transceiver; it only can be connected to computers with USB, and does not connect to smartphones. The three black NeuroSky MindWave Mobile headsets (basic, + and 2) have Bluetooth and differ both in the version of the microelectronics and in shape. Below is a brief descrition of versions.

80013-001 "NeuroSky MindWave" in white color, without Bluetooth, with its own USB transceiver. It works only with computers with USB, does not work with smartphones. The most convenient applications for meditation practice are BrainWave Visualizer for Windows PC and MacOS, "EEG meditation" for Windows PC and NeuroExperimenter for Windows PC. It appeared in 2011 and costs about $ 80 in the United States. Available from the Chinese, as well as in stocks in stores in the United States.

80013-006 is the Chinese version of Sichiray's white NeuroSky MindWave. It is a complete analogue of the white non-mobile neuroheadset 80013-001, but a version with Bluetooth with limited functionality is released under the same number 80013-006, that works only with Windows computers and Android devices (does not work with macOS and iOS), on a drop-shaped blue sticker on such a Bluetooth version you can see Model: MW003, that is, as black Mobile, but it does not work with Apple products. This version is available only from the Chinese.

80027-005 the first version of the universal black headset "NeuroSky MindWave Mobile" with Bluetooth 2 (for 60 Hz, 80027-006 is for 50 Hz), currently available only in used condition and very rare. It appeared in 2011 and cost about $ 100 in the United States.

80027-007 the second version of the universal black headset "NeuroSky MindWave Mobile" with Bluetooth 2 (for 60 Hz, 80027-008 is for 50 Hz), the most common, all applications work with it, apart from new for iOS with BLE. The most convenient applications for meditation practice are BrainWave Visualizer for Windows PC, Mac, iOS and Android, EEG Meditation in versions for Android, iOS and Windows PC, and NeuroExperimenter for Windows PC. Currently it is out of stock. The Bluetooth pairing code is 0000 (pairing this old version of the MindWave Mobile neuroheadset with Bluetooth version 2 or 3, unlike MM+ and MM2, is required for all devices, including iOS). The headset remembers only the last 3 pairings, when creating a pairing with the 4th device, it forgets the 1st one, and if it is necessary to use it with it, the old pairing must be deleted in the device and made again. It must be worn so that the clip is on the left earlobe, and the frontal sensor is approximately in the center of the left half of the forehead, and not in the center of the forehead.

80027-009 (and -010) a subversion of the 80027-023 version.

80027-023 exactly the same as 80027-007, but with the optional paid (now free) MindPlay application. The headsets themselves are identical, but because of the app, 80027-023 costs $ 30 more. The MindPlay application, depending on the values of the user's brain rhythms, controls the display of the video, each time choosing one of the alternative continuation options in several specific places of the movie.

80027-022 is the second version, or "NeuroSky MindWave Mobile +", a universal (for 60 Hz & 50 Hz) black headset with Bluetooth 4 (BLE). You should not pair Bluetooth with iOS (unlike other platforms, the Bluetooth pairing code is 0000; the headset remembers only the last 3 pairings, when creating a pairing with the 4th device, it forgets the 1st one, and if it is necessary to use it with it, the old pairing must be deleted in the device and made again), applications connect directly to the headset. Appeared in the middle of 2016. It is not currently being produced anymore. It must be worn so that the clip is on the left earlobe, and the frontal sensor is approximately in the center of the left half of the forehead, and not in the center of the forehead.

80027-032 the third & newest version of the universal (for 60 Hz & 50 Hz, use MindWave Mobile Tutorial app http://store.neurosky.com/products/mindwave-mobile-plus-tutorial to set mains interference filter frequency) black headset, which went on sale in May 2018 "NeuroSky MindWave Mobile 2", costs about $ 100 in the United States. It has enhanced microelectronics compared to + version, uses dual-mode Bluetooth (old and BLE). You should not pair Bluetooth with iOS (unlike other platforms, the Bluetooth pairing code is 0000; the headset remembers only the last 3 pairings, when creating a pairing with the 4th device, it forgets the 1st one, and if it is necessary to use it with it, the old pairing must be deleted in the device and made again), applications connect directly to the headset. Changed the shape of the headset and contacts for more convenient use. Among other things, the upper, thinner arm is now springing weaker, and the neuroheadset of version "2" is practically not felt on the head. Also, the microelectronics has been changed (the control board with an internal DC-DC converter of 3.3 V has been improved), and now reliable values of the meditation parameter are issued until the battery is completely discharged. It must be worn so that the clip is on the left earlobe, and the frontal sensor is approximately in the center of the left half of the forehead, and not in the center of the forehead. The bow of the forehead sensor now flexes slightly (can be bented slightly to give the desired tilt; it is only in this MM2 version) to create minimal pressure on the forehead.

The exact name of the version is written on the box in the lower left part of the side through which the headset is visible, not counting the new version "2", which has a new type of box. Any version of NeuroSky neuroheadsets can be successfully used for meditation practice.

11. In the NeuroSky neuroheadset, in addition to the meditation parameter, there is also the attention parameter. What is it, and how applicable is it to the treatment of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), which is increasingly common in children and adults?

Answer: The algorithm of once a second calculated attention parameter values, based on the values of all brain rhythms, was developed by NeuroSky as a result of many years of research, and is not publicly available. This parameter really shows the level of attention, which allows you to use the NeuroSky neuroheadset to train the attention and perseverance of children (and adults) with ADHD, similar to how it is used to train meditation using the "meditation" parameter. The attention parameter can provide information about the current ability to hold attention through objective digital data, as well as to train attention, for example, in the EEG-attention free application for Android, available on Google Play. But it should be remembered that such training requires time, perseverance and all-round long-term efforts. If a child (or an adult) with an advanced ADHD stage, for example, plays primitive computer games like shooter games every day and night for years, because of which he is in a state of chronic mental fatigue, emotional emaciation and degradation of intellectual abilities, turning into social relations into an irresponsible creature with a dominant hit or run reflex, and, besides playing, often falls into other kinds of addictions in pursuit of a momentary illusion of satisfaction or energy against the background of regular energy collapse, there is no reason to hope that neuroheadset alone can cure ADHD. In such a situation, an integrated approach is required, with the elimination for a long time of those factors that led to the appearance of ADHD. ADHD is also the result of changes in the brain, and not just in the mind. The reverse changes will require long, focused and intense efforts, as the brain and mind change slowly, especially in a positive way. Degradation and negative changes with the waste of previously accumulated achievements are easier and faster than positive ones. A neuroheadset can undoubtedly be useful for treating the early stages of ADHD, but a neuroheadset alone cannot succeed an integrated approach is needed.

A more detailed study of the "attention" parameter allows to make the assumption that it does not determine a person's attention as reliably as the "meditation" parameter determines the presence of a state of Buddhist shamatha and yogic samadhi. Shamatha is characterized by a unique EEG pattern the strong dominance of the alpha rhythm over the beta rhythm and even all other rhythms, and this greatly facilitates the recognition of this state of mind through the EEG. At the same time, the state of active attention is characterized by different and at the same time ambiguous combinations of brain rhythms. Various experiments allow to conclude that what is considered attention in the NeuroSky headset, it would be more correct to call an excited emotional state, poorly suppressed anxiety, or a complete absence of sleepiness. Because all these states are also characterized by high values of the attention parameter, although the persons attention itself can be directed, for example, not to listening to the interlocutor, but to some other things, for example, to his own mental experiences and worries.

In the formula for calculating the values of the "attention" parameter of the NeuroSky headset, the levels of gamma rhythms are taken into account explicitly, and therefore it is imperative to change the frequency of the rejection filter of the headset from 60 Hz to 50 Hz in Eurasia (and to 60 Hz in America), or at least move 3 meters away from any electrical equipment. The same goes for the Mindflex Duel game, which uses NeuroSky's TGAM module in its headsets. For MindWave Mobile+ and MindWave Mobile 2 neuroheadsets, the frequency filter is set in the MindWave Mobile Tutorial app (available in Android and iOS versions), in other (older) versions of neuroheadsets you need to solder the frequency filter jumper. Due to interference from electrical equipment, the Gamma2 rhythm values can reach 500,000 compared to the usual 2,000-5,000, completely distorting the "attention" parameter values.

In fact, the parameter "attention" rather shows the degree of disturbance of the mind, and therefore in real shamatha meditation, which lasts for a minute or longer, this parameter tends to zero at the time when the parameter "meditation" tends to its maximum values. Below is a screenshot of a such example.

Screenshot of the free EEG Meditation application for Windows

12. After 2-3 weeks of daily use of the NeuroSky neuroheadset, it often has been starting to lose a signal, not connect, or generate strange EEG data (white line in the Brainwave Visualizer application). What to do?

Answer: Any dry electrodes, even of the most expensive electroencephalograph, are contaminated by traces of fat due to contact with the skin in a few hours of use, and the quality of the contact deteriorates. To ensure the highest quality signal (like of a new neuroheadset), it is necessary to gently wipe with an alcohol pad for injections (from a pharmacy) three metal contacts of the neuroheadset the main contact on the arch resting on the forehead and two on the clip for the earlobe. It is advisable to wipe the skin every time before using the headset, the main contact on the arch resting on the forehead at least once in a few hours of using the headset, two contacts on the clip for the earlobe at least once in 10 hours of using the headset. In hot climates this needs to be done more often. It is also recommended to use alkaline batteries, rather than cheaper zinccarbon ones. If the neuroheadset connects to the Android device or computer longer than 5 seconds, clean the list of paired Bluetooth headsets on the device, leaving only the neuroheadset. Neuroheadsets MindWave Mobile (1.0), MindWave Mobile + (1.5) and MindWave Mobile 2 remember only the last 3 paired devices; when paired with a fourth, the headset forgets the first, with the fifth the second, etc. In this case , if necessary, pairing with the first device must be done again, having previously deleted it on the device.

13. Do I get addicted to the NeuroSky headset if I use it every day? If I get used to meditate with a headset, can I meditate without it?

Answer: During any meditation, including with a neuroheadset, the "assemblage point" and subtle tracking of attention to the state of your mind should be in consciousness, for example, in the center of the head, and not on anything external. For example, it shouldn't be on the sound signal of the headset app. The sound signal of the application should be at the "periphery of consciousness", in the background, be an auxiliary, and not the main object and signal during meditation. In addition, it is recommended to meditate every day without a neuroheadset for at least the same amount of time as with a neuroheadset. A neuroheadset is needed first of all in order to get the "feeling" of the state of shamatha meditation and learn to quickly enter it. In order not to sit on a meditation mat for an hour a day for 10-15 years, doing anything but meditation, having listened and read a lot of wrong advices "about meditation" from various glamorous businessmen "from spirituality".

14. When launching Android or iOS applications for a neuroheadset on a smartphone, they do not connect to it, or the connection is lost regularly after a few seconds or half a minute. Why?

Answer: This can happen for several reasons, even with a fully functional neuroheadset. Firstly, this can happen on new devices with Bluetooth 5, which in some smartphone models can conflict with WiFi due to the use of a common radio frequency range. Especially often this problem manifests itself on new Xiaomi smartphones, for example, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T model definitely has it. This problem is solved by disabling WiFi in the smartphone while using the neuroheadset.

Secondly, this problem of an unstable or absent connection with a neuroheadset may appear due to the various messengers installed on the smartphone both Android and iOS (iPhone), especially the Facebook messenger, which intercepts all events on the smartphone and thereby creates problems for those applications that run in real time. To check, you should temporarily remove (uninstall) messengers from the smartphone and then check the performance of the neuroheadset with its applications.

Also, for some users, a connection to a neuroheadset is established each time not in a couple of seconds, but much longer. If the headset connects every time, for example, in a minute or a minute and a half, try clearing the list of paired Bluetooth devices on your Android device smartphone or tablet, leaving only the neuroheadset.

It should be noted that you do not need to perform preliminary Bluetooth pairing of the MindWave Mobile+ or MindWave Mobile 2 (with Bluetooth 4) neuroheadsets with iOS devices. In all other cases, you need to pair (once) via Bluetooth before launching any applications.

15. The headset occasionally shows a high level of meditation when I seem to be not meditating, and often shows a low level of meditation when I meditate. Why?

Recognition of the state of meditation by shamatha with a neuroheadset occurs indirectly according to certain combinations of values of the electrical rhythms of the brain, and not in some miraculous way directly at the level of consciousness and buddhi. For this reason, sometimes incorrect recognition of the state of meditation shamatha in both directions is possible the counting of shamatha when it was not, and vice versa. But this happens rarely, not counting the adaptive feature of the "meditation" parameter algorithm. For comparison, the Muse neuroheadset makes mistakes much more often in its branded application.

For just a few seconds in a row, the neuroheadset can show a high level of values of the "meditation" parameter in different situations, even not related to meditation (which does not negate the possibility of accidentally entering a state of meditation for a second), because these are just certain combinations (ratios) of electrical rhythms of brain (primarily the strong dominance of the alpha rhythm over the beta rhythm), which naturally constantly change and sometimes for a short time can accidentally coincide with the pattern of rhythms in meditation. At the same time, the ability to be in a state of shamatha meditation is manifested in the fact that a meditator can be in this state voluntarily for at least several tens of seconds in a row, and then this is a precisely trained state of meditation, and not a random coincidence of rhythms for a short time.

At least two different people had a situation where a neuroheadset showed them the duration of continuous meditation at a level of at least 80 ("≥80 max solid time:") for more than 100 seconds, although their usual results at that time did not exceed 20-30 seconds of such meditation. At the same time, they had a lot of meditation sessions with a neuroheadset at that time. The adaptive algorithms for the "meditation" parameter can somewhat reduce its requirements for the formation of the values of the "meditation" parameter, and then some good meditation is considered as excellent by the neuroheadset. It uses not a linear formula, but a more complex algorithm. This is what is being said here http://developer.neurosky.com/docs/doku.php?id=esenses_tm: "The reason for the somewhat wide ranges for each interpretation (80-100, 60-80, etc.) is that some parts of the eSense algorithm are dynamically learning, and at times employ some slow-adaptive algorithms to adjust to natural fluctuations and trends of each user, accounting for and compensating for the fact that EEG in the human brain is subject to normal ranges of variance and fluctuation".

At the same time, a frequent reason for the very low values of the "meditation" parameter of a neuroheadset is the lack of training in the state of shamatha meditation. If you cannot confidently enter the state of shamatha meditation in a couple of seconds and remain in it for at least a minute, then this means that you can enter this state only if a number of factors coincide by chance. In other words, the state of meditation shamatha has not yet been trained, but it is described in more detail here.

16. NeuroSky neuroheadset has only 3 sensors and 1 EEG channel, while Muse neuroheadset has 7 sensors and 4 EEG channels. Perhaps Muse can produce more accurate results? In addition, Muse does not have an ear clip, which makes it more convenient to use and looks more glamorous.

A large number of channels (20 or more) are necessary for professional electroencephalographs in order to identify the problem areas of the brain (injuries, tumors), since in these places the EEG is weakened or corrupted. At the same time, when assessing the state of a healthy brain in the context of determining the state of shamatha meditation, the number of channels is not of fundamental importance, since the dominance of the alpha rhythm, characteristic for the state of shamatha / samadhi meditation, will be on all areas of the skin of the upper part of the head, if, of course, this state of meditation is achieved by the user of the headset.

In the occipital part of the head (usually covered with hair), the amplitude of the alpha rhythm is naturally greater than at the Fp1 point in the center of the left part of the forehead (from which NeuroSky reads EEG), but in NeuroSky, firstly, a normalized distribution of spectral power density is used, which coincides with the values of professional medical electroencephalographs (unlike Muse, see scientific studies 1 2), and, secondly, the algorithm of the "meditation" parameter of NeuroSky takes into account the design of the neuroheadset that the alpha rhythm data is obtained from the forehead (that is the amplitude of the alpha rhythm is slightly lower at this point), and not from the back of the head.

It should be noted that to develop the "meditation" parameter, NeuroSky conducted many years of research of 14 meditation masters, including Tibetan monks with many years of meditation experience, who could enter the state of 100% shamatha meditation almost immediately and for an almost unlimited time of experimentation. In these studies, professional multichannel electroencephalographs were used, and therefore NeuroSky has data on exactly what the ratio of the electrical rhythms of the brain in the state of shamatha meditation should be at each separate point of the head, including the Fp1 point in the center of the left part of the forehead.

Despite expectations of a better EEG reading by the Muse neuroheadset with its 4 EEG channels, the real situation suggests the opposite. For example, the lack of springing of individual sensors in Muse two outermost of the five on the forehead and two behind the ear, forming 4 EEG channels, very often, as Muse users note, leads to the fact that due to various design flaws of the Muse neuroheadset and individual characteristics of the head shape at least one of the 4 channels transmits very unreliable data or just parasitic electrical noise and interference, and due to insufficient clearing of the EEG signal from noise, any one of the 4 Muse channels with unreliable data can distort the values of the Calm (meditation) algorithm in the basic Muse application in general, which can turn the data of the meditation session into a random number generator.

The quality of reading even a raw EEG in Muse is noticeably worse than in NeuroSky, and this is confirmed by the above scientific studies (1 2).

It should also be noted that the values of the Calm (meditation) parameter of the Muse neuroheadset are available only and exclusively in the basic application from InteraXon itself, the manufacturer of this neuroheadset. The algorithm for calculating Calm values is not only not publicly available, but also not available to any third-party developers, unlike the NeuroSky "meditation" parameter, which is at least available to any third-party application developers. At the same time, the quality of the Calm (meditation) parameter of the Muse neuroheadset is much worse and more unreliable than the "meditation" parameter of the NeuroSky neuroheadset, due to a coarser estimate of the data, as well as strong averaging and unjustified overestimation of the data to please the expectations of the Muse neuroheadset user, especially after a few minutes after starting the meditation session.

An interesting comment from NeuroSky here http://support.neurosky.com/kb/development-2/misc-tgam-qa about the possibility of placing the base (reference) electrode not on the earlobe:

5.) In regards to the Reference Electrode and GND Electrode, is there any location requirement about these two sensors? Or in principle they are at the same voltage?

People have experimented with various configurations for ground and reference sensors. The ear is likely the best location. People have also tried behind the ear, forehead, cheek, and many other locations. There's a tradeoff between signal quality and design, which is something that you can test with.

In other words, glamorous placement of Muse-like sensors in a hoop without an ear clip loses the discourse sense of ensuring the quality of EEG readings. Also, in Muse to read the base potential, 3 central electrodes on the forehead are used (instead of the electrode on the ear clip), which somewhat impairs the quality of the EEG reading by the two extreme electrodes on the forehead, and this is especially not good for the alpha rhythm reading, the center of generation of which is usually located in the occipital parts of the head (the values and phases of the alpha rhythm upon reaching the forehead from the occipital region will be similar on all 5 frontal electrodes, largely leveling each other and thereby distorting the reading of EEG). This scientific study (see Figure 4 in the Results section) confirms the fact that high values of the alpha rhythm can sometimes (in this study, in the first visit out of two during meditation with closed eyes) not be noticed by the Muse neuroheadset, which makes it especially useless in the context of defining the state of shamatha / samadhi meditation. In addition, the raw EEG data of the Muse neuroheadset as a whole is very far from normalized, which casts doubt on the reliability of its data even in third-party applications such as Mind Monitor (formerly Muse Monitor), which display only averaged data of individual rhythms due to the impossibility of using by the third-party developers of even such a dubious ready-made parameter as the Calm of Muse neuroheadset.

It is better to have one NeuroSky data channel with guaranteed reliable quality of the "meditation" parameter than 4 Muse data channels of dubious quality with obvious flaws at all stages of their acquisition and processing for obtaining the values of individual brain rhythms and the "Calm" parameter.

17. Some users of NeuroSky neuroheadset say that it reads nonsense, since the "brain rhythms" are sometimes recorded for a while, even if you just hold it in your hands. After all, if a neuroheadset can reliably display the state of shamatha / samadhi, then why doesn't it do it, if you place it on your hand or even on your home cat?

The fact is that NeuroSky headset is just a single-channel electroencephalograph, which actually records the slightest electrical activity on the skin, which is always present in humans. In this case, the values of the "meditation" parameter are calculated on the basis of the ratios of the values of individual rhythms, even if their values (voltage) are minimal. The author of this article conducted an experiment by connecting all 3 sensors of the headset with an unshielded wire. The obtained values of the rhythms did not exceed the minimum values, which actually corresponded to the noise level. It can be very conditionally considered that the numerical "absolute" values of the rhythms correspond to 2000 = 1 µV (in fact, they are also relative and floating), and, in this case, the average values of none of the rhythms exceeded 1 µV, which roughly corresponds to the noise level. Below is a screenshot of the "wire experiment" in which the delta rhythm had the highest (1612) average "absolute" value:

Experiment with wire-connected three sensors of NeuroSky MindWave Mobile EEG Headset
Experiment with wire-connected three sensors of NeuroSky MindWave Mobile EEG Headset

At the same time, when the neuroheadset is correctly put on, it is the EEG that is read, and there is an unambiguous correlation between the state of mind and the values of the "meditation" parameter. The fact is that with the same states of mind, the values of the same electrical rhythm of the brain in different parts of the head have different amplitudes (and attempts to read the EEG of the brain on an arm or leg are completely meaningless). For example, the amplitude of the alpha rhythm is greater in the back of the head, and to read it at point Fp1 (approximately in the middle of the left half of the forehead), mathematical correction is required, or it is necessary to compare it with the ready-made tabular values of previously read values of rhythms at this point in the state of meditation. The NeuroSky company conducted many years of research of 14 meditation masters using professional multichannel medical electroencephalographs, as a result of which a database of values of different rhythms in different parts of the head, typical for shamatha meditation, was collected. The algorithm of the "meditation" parameter takes into account just such characteristic values (amplitudes) of rhythms at point Fp1, and the most reliable values for determining the presence of a state of meditation will be determined when the neuroheadset reads the electroencephalogram exactly at this point, and not in the inverted position of the neuroheadset (when the frontal sensor turns on the back of the head, and a clip with 2 sensors on the right ear instead of the left) or when it is placed on the leg, on the cat, etc.

Claims that if a neuroheadset is able to reliably show the presence of shamatha meditation, then why does it not demonstrate this when it is simply held in the hands, as one opponent with advanced degrees stated (But if the device measures the X parameter, then it measures it anywhere. And if it shows that X is there, then it is. Or it is not a device".), are similar to statements like these: "If this telescope allows you to see the rings of Saturn, then it should show them wherever I point the telescope, and at any time". Independent scientific studies show that the quality of EEG reading at point Fp1 with the NeuroSky neuroheadset is not inferior to that of professional medical electroencephalographs: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5540902/.



Example with brain rhythms for 25 seconds of continuous 100% meditation during one of the sessions

DeltaThetaAlpha1Alpha2Beta1Beta2Gamma1Gamma2AttentionMeditationDerived (a1+a2)totPwr
4791416411856263101229783950910168311001.16272591
115657601411779129144442547331251141611001.04246339
40903996412072253411485948012342143111001.20231620
1390422250274734096939196165565239781001.07117642
23813073324074284188564756741811214261000.99107132
61752148992359355445689389022071483271001.20168836
505653937244071337582314231522971951271000.94176643
62882116583236103372360542793364908141001.28226217
979912472133729114329326166308256898511001.26312806
27090209329580330791393930002090184911001.13185494
1889828090126557161501902646922306104611001.04216765
55154647915862626160610433041727105111001.12248966
158714289852796053135555766977136011001.29173344
8810131071195372900395643981301111071001.01155119
70621379382663310323172408181951531001.02113680
402034299174573641351022360931974129181001.23296608
1263354775639077159693739222116152371000.86152972
11764301113121938434999365843692704141001.02132501
24933318749017858524894304315582850101001.17213854
2828643274182397450101071250612799272881001.13320267
63462924614431512689987944001781407741001.07212733
1662925048113456453692217573532960293511001.13235925
14469918812431559670784952442250143271001.26224417
108081866122467314198327632252174123131001.12278246
219040886107872509056002720292399771000.8791193

Screenshot from the free NeuroExperimenter application for Windows with examples of statistics of relative values of brain rhythms for 25 seconds of continuous 100% meditation
Screenshot from the free NeuroExperimenter application for Windows with examples of statistics of relative values of brain rhythms for 25 seconds of continuous 100% meditation.

Screenshot from the free NeuroExperimenter app for Windows with examples of statistics of absolute values of brain rhythms for 25 seconds of continuous 100% meditation
Screenshot from the free NeuroExperimenter app for Windows with examples of statistics of absolute values of brain rhythms for 25 seconds of continuous 100% meditation.

Sample of 18 most characteristic seconds with brain rhythms from 25 seconds of continuous 100% meditation during one of the sessions

DeltaThetaAlpha1Alpha2Beta1Beta2Gamma1Gamma2AttentionMeditationDerived (a1+a2)totPwr
4791416411856263101229783950910168311001.16272591
115657601411779129144442547331251141611001.04246339
40903996412072253411485948012342143111001.20231620
61752148992359355445689389022071483271001.20168836
62882116583236103372360542793364908141001.28226217
979912472133729114329326166308256898511001.26312806
1889828090126557161501902646922306104611001.04216765
55154647915862626160610433041727105111001.12248966
158714289852796053135555766977136011001.29173344
8810131071195372900395643981301111071001.01155119
70621379382663310323172408181951531001.02113680
402034299174573641351022360931974129181001.23296608
24933318749017858524894304315582850101001.17213854
2828643274182397450101071250612799272881001.13320267
63462924614431512689987944001781407741001.07212733
1662925048113456453692217573532960293511001.13235925
14469918812431559670784952442250143271001.26224417
108081866122467314198327632252174123131001.12278246

Screenshot from the free NeuroExperimenter application for Windows with examples of statistics of relative values of brain rhythms for 18 seconds of 100% meditation.
Screenshot from the free NeuroExperimenter application for Windows with examples of statistics of relative values of brain rhythms for 18 seconds of 100% meditation.

Screenshot from the free NeuroExperimenter application for Windows with examples of statistics of absolute values of brain rhythms for 18 seconds of 100% meditation.
Screenshot from the free NeuroExperimenter application for Windows with examples of statistics of absolute values of brain rhythms for 18 seconds of 100% meditation.


Example of graphs from the NeuroExperimenter application with the formula avg ((a1 + 0.8 * a2) / (b2 + b1 + 0.4 * t + 0.2 * d), 4) for the Derived parameter in the first illustration, quite well repeating the graph of the neuroheadset's "meditation" parameter. It should be borne in mind that the individual values of the rhythms used in this formula are not absolute values of the rhythms (which are given in the log of this application), but relative values, which may somewhat distort the results of the formula. These relative values are obtained as follows: the absolute value of each individual rhythm is divided by the sum of the absolute values of all eight individual rhythms (the sum is also displayed in the totPwr column of the log), and then the square root of the resulting value is extracted. Accordingly, even with unchanged absolute values of any one rhythm, its relative values can change due to the different sum of all rhythms. Accordingly, the graph will look slightly different if absolute values of rhythms are used for the algorithm of the "meditation" parameter.

Screenshot of the free application "NeuroExperimenter" for Windows with examples of choosing a formula for the "meditation" parameter, fig. 1
Screenshot of the free application "NeuroExperimenter" for Windows with examples of choosing a formula for the "meditation" parameter, fig. 1

The NeuroExperimenter application rounds the data on the chart to 0.1, which distorts (smoothes) small fluctuations in real values on the chart.

In addition, the data of the "meditation" parameter is transmitted once per second and not simultaneously with the data of eight rhythms, which are transmitted successively and also once per second, but the gap between the values of the rhythms and "meditation" can be up to a second, which can lead to small displacements by graphics. Inside the TGAM module, the "meditation" parameter may not be transmitted immediately after its calculation, and, accordingly, it will slightly differ from the value of the analogue of the "meditation" parameter, calculated on the basis of rhythms changing in half a second or almost a second, using the Derived formula.

It should be noted that the "meditation" parameter of the NeuroSky neuroheadset responds very well to long-term regular practice of shamatha, allowing over time to achieve long periods of continuous 100% values of the "meditation" parameter even with minimal subjective "efforts" during a meditation session, what cannot but talk about a good correlation of the parameter "meditation" with the practical skill of shamatha meditation, given the fact that such meditation is essentially an energetic exercise that causes a gradual energetic "swing" and the accumulation of more and more energy (one of the names of which is kundalini). Accordingly, it is possible to say that the NeuroSky neuroheadset is an excellent scientific means of objectively assessing the skill of shamatha meditation.

Below is a variant with the formula if ((avg((a1+0.8*a2)/(b2+b1+0.4*t+0.2*d),4)/1.48)>1,1,(avg((a1+0.8*a2)/(b2+b1+0.4*t+0.2*d),4)/1.48)), the same also in a shorter form min(avg((a1+0.8*a2)/(b2+b1+0.4*t+0.2*d),4)/1.48,1), for NeuroExperimenter app. Those wishing to choose a more accurate version of the algorithm for the "meditation" parameter can use this file p29112020.xlsx, which contains all the initial data of this meditation session, as well as basic formulas and graphs have already been substituted.

Attention! In the NeuroExperimenter application, the formula parser uses the so-called "right association", or reading the formula or any part of it from the right side in order, and not in accordance with generally accepted rules of mathematics, more on that here.

Please note the following:
The formula may be nested to any depth, but parentheses are required to order the operations. For example,
a1 * b1 + 3
will be parsed as
a1 * (b1 + 3)
because the parser uses right association. Parentheses can get you what you intend:
(a1 * b1) + 3
It is probably best to use parentheses around each unit so that you get what you want.

It follows from this that the NeuroExperimenter application interprets the formula min(avg((a1+0.8*a2)/(b2+b1+0.4*t+0.2*d),4)/1.48,1) in this form, if it were written according to the rules of mathematics: min(avg((a1+0.8*a2)/(b2+b1+0.4*(t+0.2*d)),4)/1.48,1) or, in another form, it would look so: min(avg((a1+(0.8*a2))/(b2+b1+(0.4*t)+(0.08*d)),4)/1.48,1).

Screenshot of the free application "NeuroExperimenter" for Windows with examples of choosing a formula for the "meditation" parameter, fig. 3.
Screenshot of the free application "NeuroExperimenter" for Windows with examples of choosing a formula for the "meditation" parameter, fig. 3.

The formula itself looks simpler: avg((a1+0.8*a2)/(b2+b1+0.4*t+0.2*d),4)/1.48, and the condition is necessary so that if its value becomes greater than 1, then it is replaced by 1. The graphs on the fig. 3 are quite similar, although the exact coefficients of individual rhythms still need to be selected. In addition, it is possible that the alpha1 rhythm (and possibly the rest too) has more weight in the last second than in the previous ones.

Partially rescaled screenshot of the free "NeuroExperimenter" application for Windows with the above data of 25 seconds of 100% values of the "meditation" parameter substituted into the formula (avg((a1+0.8*a2)/(b2+b1+0.4*t+0.2*d),4))/1.48, fig. 2.
Partially rescaled screenshot of the free "NeuroExperimenter" application for Windows with the above data of 25 seconds of 100% values of the "meditation" parameter substituted into the formula (avg((a1+0.8*a2)/(b2+b1+0.4*t+0.2*d),4))/1.48, fig. 2.

In the above graph, the Derived values did not fall below 1.1 (vertical scale on the right), while a value of 1 corresponds to the "100%" value of the "meditation" parameter (vertical scale on the left). At the same time, Derived values reached 1.9, being more than 1.3 on average. In other words, Neuroskys algorithm of the "meditation" parameter cuts ("rounds") the maximum values of the algorithm at the level of 100%, while another customized algorithm based on the rhythm values could determine better and purer states of meditation, and it would allow to avoid just a straight line of 100% values for the "meditation" parameter. Although, of course, 100% according to the "meditation" parameter is already quite a good level of shamatha meditation.

Based on numerous experiments with similar formulas, it can be concluded that the algorithm of the "meditation" parameter has several levels of adaptability to the user's level of meditation. I must say right away that these are my subjective impressions, and that they may turn out to be wrong, but so far they are as they are.

First, there is a certain incentive coefficient at the very beginning, which slightly overestimates the values of the "meditation" parameter, especially until the value of 100 is reached for the first time during the session, after which the coefficient ceases to significantly affect.

Secondly, there is a certain general correction factor (http://developer.neurosky.com/docs/doku.php?id=esenses_tm some parts of the eSense algorithm are dynamically learning, and at times employ some slow-adaptive algorithms to adjust to natural fluctuations and trends of each user, accounting for and compensating for the fact that EEG in the human brain is subject to normal ranges of variance and fluctuation), which slowly changes from time to time from session to session, and which sometimes leads to the fact that occasionally, during a session, some users cannot reach high values, no matter how they try, but after terminating the current session and literally after a few seconds of starting a new one, high values are obtained relatively easily and almost immediately. Read more about the adaptation of the algorithm here.

The high values in the next session after the unsuccessful session can also be explained partially by pure mental reasons for the natural real release of efforts (required for shamatha meditation), which occurs as a result of the end of the previous session. It should not be forgotten that shamatha meditation is a natural, pristine state of consciousness, which is difficult to maintain and train "head-on" (straight), because it requires indirect efforts and keeping consciousness in a pure, clear, silent state, which requires constant work on oneself and constant overcoming of the next subtle distracting patterns of the mind.

Be that as it may, the resulting formula min(avg((a1+0.8*a2)/(b2+b1+0.4*t+0.2*d),4)/1.48,1) quite accurately describes the actual combinations of brain rhythms during shamatha meditation, and deviations from it in practice are more likely associated with the intervention of weight reward and corrective coefficients, which somewhat distort the data to stimulate the user, but are not necessary for a meditator who has his own motivating reasons not to stop meditation practice.





"Meditation with neuroheadsets"
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This is a translation into English of this article of the author of this site.

Meditation with biofeedback using the electroencephalograph gadget NeuroSky MindWave Mobile, or accelerated self-study of meditation.

The free 'EEG Meditation' app for Android.

The free 'EEG Meditation' app for iOS.

The free 'EEG Meditation' app for Windows PC, for the white or black headsets.

The free Little Buddha: meditation with NeuroSky neuro-headsets app for Android.

The arguments in favor of the use of EEG headsets, such as NeuroSky MindWave Mobile, for meditation.

Comparison of the 5 headsets for meditation: NeuroSky MindWave Mobile, Muse, EMOTIV EPOC+, EMOTIV Insight and Melomind.

What meditation is and how to meditate.

NeuroSky MindWave Mobile . -.