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This instrument turns brain waves into music

VICE News went to Seattle to hang out with the creator of the “encephlaphone,” an instrument that people play with their mind.

Most people play a musical instrument with their hands or mouth. But Dr. Thomas Deuel, a musician and neurologist based in Seattle, has built one that you can play with your mind.

He calls it the encephalophone, which more or less translates to “brain instrument.” The thing looks like an electrode-studded swimmers cap with wires coming out of it, which are plugged into a small box that captures brain waves. Using computer programs that Deuel helped design, those waves are translated, in real time, to notes on a heptatonic scale.

The impetus for the instrument was what Deuel calls a “mad scientist project,” born out of a desire to jam with his friends while propped up, zen-like, in a reclining chair. But he realizes now that the encephalophone could have profound implications — especially for people who have experienced severe loss of mobility because of conditions like MS, ALS, or stroke. He’s now testing the instrument’s therapeutic potential with patients in clinical trials.

VICE News went to visit Deuel in Seattle to see what's jamming.

This segment originally aired January 29, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.