Perhaps you’ve seen pictures of people lying in giant machines that record brain activity; or a man running on a treadmill with dozens of little wires attached to his muscles.
These devices are usually big, expensive, and operated by people that have been taught how to use them. That could be a thing of the past.
We can now record the same activity using much smaller, inexpensive and easy-to-use wearable technology.
You attach these wearable devices to your body in order to measure physiological activity–heart rate, body temperature, respiratory rate, muscle tension, and brain waves. This is biofeedback. Having this immediate feedback from your body can allow you to better understand and react to certain states.
Imagine seeing your brain activity in real-time, while meditating or while feeling stressed at work, and being able to adapt what you’re doing to get better results. Or being able to keep track of your heart rate and muscle tension during exercise, to keep an exact measure of how you’re improving.
The possibilities are endless, it’s putting our health and fitness in our own hands, where we can now see and interact with our body in new and exciting ways.
The Wearable EEG Meditation Headset
Biofeedback headsets measure your brain waves, using EEG. They’re small bands that sit easily on your head and measure activity through sensors.
EEG stands for Electroencephalography, but you’ll be forgiven for not remembering that. It measures voltage fluctuations from ionic current flows within the neurons of the brain.
The activity measured using EEG can of course be very detailed and complex, and dependent on the area of the brain, but a great place to start is the different levels of activity we can find:
- Delta Waves – (0.1 – 3.9 Hz) — When in a deep, dreamless sleep. Newborns sleep in this stage, adults less so.
- Theta Waves – (4 – 7.9 Hz) — Dreaming sleep (REM), this is the goal for meditation or self-hypnosis.
- Alpha Waves – (8 – 13.9 Hz) — Relaxed, daydreaming and watching TV.
- Beta Waves – (14 – 30 Hz) — The awake state. Engaged in activities and conversation.
- Gamma Waves – (31 Hz+) — Hyper alert, good for insights and higher learning.
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Brain science is complex stuff, but interesting and well worth investigating further, of course, that’s made all the more easy with the wearable headsets available today, so let’s examine 3 of them:
1. Muse: The Brain Sensing Headband
Meet Muse, an EEG headband that connects to your devices through Bluetooth. It has 7 sensors and comes with a companion app for iPhone/Android and USB charger. It launched first and it remains the most popular meditation technology available in 2017.
Pros: Muse helps you meditate by using audio to guide you through a peaceful focused-attention session. It keeps track of each session so you can see how you improve along the way. It’s more comfortable than the NeuroSky band.
Cons: Muse will set you back $249, making it the most expensive headband of the three. It’s still a little clunky and needs to be wiped done on occasion to get a reliable connection. Some head movements such as yawning or sudden turning can loosen the sensors.
2. Thync Calm and Energy Wearable
Billed as the “first wearable technology that actively elevates your mood and lowers stress.”, the Thync claims to boost your energy levels without sugar, caffeine or other stimulants.
It is worn on the forehead and the back of the neck. It uses electromagnetic impulses that stimulate cranial nerves on the face and back of the head to improve your mood.
Pros: It has been clinically proven to improve sleep, reduce mid-night awakenings and reduce stress if you use it at least 3-5 times a week. Extensively studied by a team of neurobiologists and neuroscientists during the 5-year development phase.
Cons: Limited Android support. The adhesive strips that attached to your forehead quickly wear out and can be uncomfortable for some people.
3. NeuroSky MindWave Headset
Starting at $79 for the MindWave headset, or $129.99 for the bundle, this is your cheapest option. The bundle includes a host of apps including the MyndPlay Brainwave Movie Player, which determines the edits of a movie based on your brainwave levels.
Pros: It’s the cheapest option. It comes with a big library of apps and programs to run with, you can even pair it with the Puzzlebox Orbit, a brain-controlled helicopter.
Cons: It’s uncomfortable, with 30 minutes use being enough to cause some people headaches. It’s also a long way off being a fashion accessory.
4. Versus Headset
If you want the Ferrari of personalized meditation headsets, then the Versus Headset (it’s $799 and it’s currently only available on pre-order) may be the one for you. This is the most advanced of the wearable headsets currently available for personal use. I had the opportunity to try out a demonstration headset recently and I was impressed with what the Versus can do.
When you get the Versus, you do a couple hours of biofeedback diagnostics that sets a baseline of your current cognitive abilities. From there, you do what they call “performance brain training” by playing 5 different iPad gaming apps that sync up with the Versus headset so you can control the gameplay with your brain waves. This is measured by the Versus headset using its proprietary neuro/biofeedback technology.
Pro: The best software for brain training and the most advanced biofeedback headset for measuring your brain waves.
Cons: You really need to dig the sensors into your scalp to get consistent brainwave readings. Versus is also the most expensive option and it can only be pre-order on their website right now.
The Future of Wearable Meditation Technology
It’s clear that we’re entering a new age of insight into ourselves, wearable technology and biofeedback are only going to continue to grow as new technology comes along. Simply consider that while EEG has been around since the early 1900’s, we’re at a point now where we can purchase our own devices, measure our brainwaves and adjust our lives more effectively to deal with stress and improve our focus.
Whatever your choice of meditation headset, make sure you take full advantage of it. Life is full of stress and anxiety these days, so learning about yourself and how to overcome those problems better is going to make a huge impact on your health and happiness.