Sniffing the brain

My friend Raye [

4 years ago

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My friend Raye is in the process of becoming a licensed aromatherapy master. Her boyfriend and I start MTB biking together and that’s when I ran into her bright & spiritual soul. I have always been fascinated by this holistic branch of self-therapy. You can get compounds (organic or not) into your body in a variety of ways. If you use a cream, for example, the skin filters and the what makes the cut goes into the bloodstream. If you inhale instead you are going to hit the neocortex super quick (vs topical applications) and when that happens the limbic system is going to react accordingly.

During a getting together dinner, I shared with Raye my struggle with insomnia and she offered some help. She needed a case study for her training phase that will lead to certification, I needed more Zzzz time, a win-win game. If you are a follower of this geek portal you already know that I drive scientific thinking in every common day of life. Therefore, when I signed up as a Guinea pig I started tracking the benefits and effects of her custom prepped oils mist that would eventually affect my sleep.

Raye passes the oil mixture into blue dispensers. To avoid to confuse them since they all look the same I label every sample she passes on and I leave some leftover inside the container when near the end. Just in case I need a sample for chemical analysis within the year of running the associated experiments.

Every time I breathe in a few whiffs of the “magic potion” I track into a spreadsheet

I am on my second trial “blue bottle” and this time I wanted to evaluate the brain response after the inhalation. For the job I used Muse which is an established consumer product for aided mediation.

Since the Muse SDK allows to stream via OSC protocol I built around the streaming capture program that comes with the Muse SDK a script that looks for cues that I know clearly indicating mind state changing due to relaxation. It is calibrated around my meditational history collected via the Muse app.

Then I whipped up a UI via MaxMSP that allows afterward to playback what was captured and that I couldn’t see while collecting data. Like eyes blinking, mouth movements and so on.  I called it “Mirror’. Ah! How original of me… I know I know…

Thank you to Tom Hartogs for donating the Max project he had built for his own experiments, very kind and time saver of you Tom!

In addition to all that, I collected the raw data of my brain activity that eventually can be re-processed with better algorithms later on if needed. For example to build a brainwave mapping via Matlab or R. Some of those tools allow to perform a 2/3D mapping of the signals for easy debugging of what’s going on in the big box that processes the signals of our existence. The one below is done with Matlab with which I have a love/hate relationship…just sayin :-)

Here is my video capture of sniffing sample1 and sample2 (higher intensity)


If you haven’t heard of the Muse before now, these guys can show you the basics of the product.

Mario Esposito

Published 4 years ago