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Playing mad scientist

A couple weeks ago, a friend and I drove down to San Francisco for MacWorld.

That's not actually what I'm going to talk about. We met some folks, toured a submarine, and explored a cave system, but that's not what I'm going to talk about either.

Instead, what I'm going to talk about is sex. And brain research.

On the drive back, we were listening to a book on tape about neurology, which talked a bit about a company called Neurosky that was making brain research available to everyone. And it talked a good deal about neurofeedback, and learning to change one's brain states at will by using neurofeedback devices.

Now, Neurosky makes a full-fledged EEG machine on a chip. It's starting to show up in toys, like the Mattel Mind Flex, which teaches meditation by reading the user's brainwaves and letting the user control the toy with her mind.

Which, as I'm sure you can anticipate, got me to thinking about sex.

So the thing I've started pondering is the notion of a gadget a bit like the Mind Flex, only that runs a vibrator or some other sex toy. Which got me to wondering if sexual arousal, like meditation or concentration, is associated with a characteristic set of brainwave patterns.

So I am talking to someone in Seattle with a similar interest, and she might be able to get me access to a brain lab and an EEG. The first step would be to find out if sexual arousal can indeed be identified by a specific pattern of brainwaves. The next step would be to see if the Neurosky chip can be hacked to detect that pattern, and to run a sex toy like a vibrator. The third step would be to see, if all this works, whether or not it'd be feasible to actually build a self-contained, brain-operated sex toy system.

So for the first part, I am looking for volunteers willing to go to Seattle, get wired up to an EEG, and sexually aroused while their brainwaves are recorded. There are a few folks who I've talked to who are interested; any more takers?

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Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
much_ado
Feb. 17th, 2011 11:24 pm (UTC)
Aw, man... I am *SO* on the WRONG side of the continent for that! *harrumph*
(Deleted comment)
pyrategrrl
Feb. 18th, 2011 02:54 am (UTC)
Thirded. stoooopid continent is too wide. *pout*
trinker
Feb. 17th, 2011 11:27 pm (UTC)
*sigh* encumbered by distance (So Cal) and the care of two under 4. Alas.
the_failed_poet
Feb. 17th, 2011 11:31 pm (UTC)
D: I would so do this if I weren't on the east coast. Unfortunate!
gheofabulousduk
Feb. 17th, 2011 11:34 pm (UTC)
Shit like this, Tacit? This is why we love you.

Sadly I am Philadelphian, otherwise I would leap gleefully at this opportunity.

~Duk
nasu_dengaku
Feb. 17th, 2011 11:37 pm (UTC)
I borrowed a neurosky to test it out, and no matter what we did to try to get it to work (eg wetting the contacts with salt water to improve transmission), we felt like it was making up random noise. We couldn't do anything to reliably control it. If you have access to an EEG lab, you may be able to get a much higher quality signal.

One alternative would be to use a galvanic skin response system. (You can get them for under $200 from places like http://www.wilddivine.com/ ) Galvanic skin response is a general measure of physiological arousal. It goes up (quickly) if you're angry, surprised, or sexually turned on. It goes down (slowly) if you're relaxed and/or meditating. I found the results to be smooth and consistent. You'd still be controlling the system with your mind, even if the result is measured through your fingers.

It occurred to me a while ago to build such an arousal biofeedback system (GSR -> synthetic audio generation -> OhMiBod) that would automatically experiment with different vibration settings to find one that maximized arousal, but I never got around to it. You should do it.
qdot
Feb. 18th, 2011 03:36 am (UTC)
Hi Matt. Gosh, now the 3D vision meetups are just gonna feel weird. :)

Cheapest place to find lightstones these days is via craiglist, actually. A lot of unhappy users selling theirs for < $50.

I did GSR -> Vibration down at a talk I did at Edges when it was around in south day. People were interested, but it's tough to keep their fingers in a place where they don't put pressure on them and screw with the readings while things are happening.
nasu_dengaku
Feb. 18th, 2011 06:36 am (UTC)
Small world. :D

caz2y5
Feb. 18th, 2011 12:15 am (UTC)
I would SO do this but i don't live any where near Seattle or you know that continent. But hoping you keep us informed.
bookofmirrors
Feb. 18th, 2011 12:22 am (UTC)
*sigh* I have to agree with most of the other commentors... the spirit is willing, but the geography is weak!!!
kindredsgirl
Feb. 18th, 2011 12:28 am (UTC)
that sounds so interesting! It would depend on the schedule, and how many days I'd have to take off work. But, yeah, I'm interested.

:)
ellindsey
Feb. 18th, 2011 12:43 am (UTC)
A fascinating project, and I'd love to help out (more with the electronics and software aspect of the project, really), but I'm unfortunately on the wrong side of the continent.
brockulfsen
Feb. 18th, 2011 12:50 am (UTC)
I can't tell you how I know...

At normal EEG level of details, there isn't a sex pattern as such. However you can map the arousal cycle as a sequence of distinct states, some of which are not normally found in other situations.

There are significant individual variations, including how much fantasizing is going on.


soopahgrover
Feb. 18th, 2011 01:01 am (UTC)
I'm not sure if "brainwaves" is what an fMRI measures, but I know arousal is visible on an fMRI view of the brain. I've participated in research at Rutgers University of non-stimulation orgasms. http://www.nj.com/insidejersey/index.ssf/2010/04/science_consciousness_and_the.html

Nan Wise is one of the people running the study. It's part of her doctoral research. She speaks on polyamory from time to time, and does private counseling.
shinyobject
Feb. 18th, 2011 06:52 am (UTC)
fMRIs measure the oxygenation of hemoglobin in the brain, which does measure brain *activity* but not so much brainwaves. "Brainwaves" usually refers to measurement of electrical activity of the entire brain, not just one area.

But yeah, you can see when someone's aroused with an fMRI. I wasn't, when I had one done, and in retrospect that could have been kind of awkward.
ab3nd
Feb. 18th, 2011 01:27 am (UTC)
You should talk to my friend Neon. I'll send her a link to this post.
chipuni
Feb. 18th, 2011 01:33 am (UTC)
Characteristic brainwave patterns?
Which got me to wondering if sexual arousal, like meditation or concentration, is associated with a characteristic set of brainwave patterns.

I do not know whether there are 'characteristic sets of brainwave patterns' -- but I know that, for me, sexual arousal is tied to a (difficult to reach) brain state.

I've been taking anti-depressants for over 13 years; they have made it extremely difficult for me to reach a state of sexual arousal. In my experience, the anti-depressants have made the transition to that brain state very difficult.

But... I am in Seattle, and I'm willing to be part of the test, if we can work out when and where to meet. You have access to my address and telephone number.
asarin
Feb. 18th, 2011 01:36 am (UTC)
Sounds like a fun time, and I'm only a hop skip and jump from Seattle!
qdot
Feb. 18th, 2011 03:33 am (UTC)
So... I did this about 1.5 years ago. :) I've got a full talk on biometrics and the bedroom that I did at AE2009 that I've been meaning to encode for... since then. I'll try to get around to that soon.

I've done work with both the neurosky and the emotiv. Both are far, far to noisy to be much fun, especially in a situation where you're going to have a ton of electrical noise from involuntary movements and contortions of the face.

In terms of using the neurosky for play, I created a Max/MSP external which was then hooked to a trancevibe. Unfortunately the updates of the major averages just aren't fast enough to be fun. However, you can extract some information about facial movements from the raw wave (which you get at 500hz), so you can do things like blink detection and what not.

Just don't get too excited about what you're going to get out of toys, since they are just that, toys. The connections are SUPER flakey on a good day, downright non-existent normally. Also, I'd highly recommend going with the neurosky SDK kit if you're serious about this, it's easier to deal with than screwing with the mindflex.
shinyobject
Feb. 18th, 2011 07:08 am (UTC)
I wonder if you wouldn't find it easier to measure arousal more simply, as fun as EEGs are. I mean, I find having electrodes attached to my torso as exciting as the next girl. But you could just measure something as simple as heart rate, skin conductance, blood pressure or breathing patterns, and make a toy that reacts to feedback by vibrating more/less/same.

Personally I'd settle for a *guy* who could respond appropriately to these cues, but your experiment sounds like lots of fun.
tripartite
Feb. 18th, 2011 07:44 am (UTC)
I'm stuck on the opposite side of the continent as well but I look forward to your research results.
zanfur
Feb. 18th, 2011 12:10 pm (UTC)
I'll do it. I'm even already in Seattle!
31504
Feb. 18th, 2011 10:41 pm (UTC)
I'm in Seattle and am totally up for this.
lunasmiles
Feb. 19th, 2011 08:16 pm (UTC)
I'm in Seattle too! BTW - are you familiar with all the teledildonics developers out there/ Not quite the same focus as what you're going for, but they may be good information sources. Allen Stein - the Thrillhammer guy - is right there in Portland.
joreth
Feb. 25th, 2011 07:22 pm (UTC)
I am ABSOLUTELY interested, and I'll even break my TSA boycott for it!
onyxrising
May. 24th, 2011 04:05 am (UTC)
What book is it? I read just about as much on neurology as I can get my hands on.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )