Brain Awareness Day 2017!


We will be presenting our research into stroke rehabilitation at BRAIN AWARENESS DAY. This is a FREE event, 3.00-9.30pm, 23rd March, Goldsmiths, University of London.

Want to hear fascinating free talks about how the brain is studied and even stimulated to help us understand how babies develop, why some aspects of criminality happen, how ageing affects those with autism and how music can help survivors of stroke? And want to hear first hand from survivors, what it means to live with brain damage? Come to this exciting event {which is part of International Brain Awareness Week} at Goldsmiths, University of London.

The event is NOT aimed at academics but is for the general public. It will also be of interest to people who work in brain-related organisations, individuals affected by brain-related conditions and students who are interested in the field.

Book your FREE tickets at this link and please share this with anyone who might be interested in the event. Click here for tickets!

Feasibility Stroke Study Completed

The feasibility study aimed to test if digital musical instruments (DMIs) could aid in the self-management of stroke rehabilitation in the home environment, focusing on forward reach movements of the upper limb. Participants (n=3), all at least 11 months post stroke, participated in 15 researcher-led music making sessions over a 5 week intervention period. The sessions involved them ‘drumming’ to the beat of self-chosen tunes using Digital Music Blocks (DMBs) that were synced wirelessly to an iPad App and triggered percussion sounds as feedback. They were encouraged to continue these exercises when the researcher was not present. The results showed significant levels of self-management and significant increases in functional measures with some evidence for transfer into tasks of daily living.


The study setup were P3 could sit at a table and perform active forward reaching activities using 4 digital music blocks (DMBs) synced wirelessly to an iPad App.

 A long awaited update on the Stroke Project – New research project begins soon!

A new research study is being undertaken soon to trial digital musical interfaces (DMIs) in stroke survivors homes. Using the BLE113 low energy bluetooth module musical instruments are being developed to sync to an iPad app. This will encourage self-management of stroke rehabilitation via a simple user interface. The user will self select their favourite songs to play along to by performing forward reaching exercises using a number of DMIs.

The BLE113 is small – and for this study to minimise user involvement with technical issues battery charge will not be used, instead this nice little USB Reg board will be built into the circuit – thanks to Jeff Rowberg for the link.

USB REG board is a solution for powering your device over USB connection.

USB REG board is a solution for powering your device over USB connection.

The BLE113 is a Bluetooth Smart module targeted for small and low-power sensors and accessories

The BLE113 is a Bluetooth Smart module targeted for small and low-power sensors and accessories

Upper Limb Rehabilitation Clinic & Symposium Update!

We observed on the Upper Limb Rehabilitation Clinic at The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery today in Queen Square. Dr Nick Ward and his wonderful duo Fran Brander (Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist), and Kate Kelly (Clinical Specialist Occupational Therapist) were really open to sharing their expertise and making us feel welcome while they assessed the needs of new patients coming in for referral. We were very impressed by Fran and Kate with their ability to assess a whole range of patients needs so quickly from their many years of experience.

We hope to continue attending both the referral clinic on Thursdays as we did today and also join other members of staff on the wards to see stroke patients getting full treatment at other times too. As we learn more about the physical movements of the patients we all hope to learn how we can integrate music and various hardware to help improve patients wellbeing and potentially aid in their recovery.


A symposium on the role of technology in neurorehabilitation

This event on Thursday 9th October 2014, 33 Queen Square, London WC1N 3 looks really exiting where “…speakers will explore a range of topics from the fundamentals of neurostimulation in the nervous system to the use of robotics to promote practice and learning.”

Lauren Stewart and Mick Grierson, part of our team from Goldsmiths, are presenting Musical Routes To Rehabilitation at the symposium in the afternoon.


3rd Feedback Session With a Stroke Group

On Tuesday I met up with another stroke recovery group. The sessions went really well and we had a lot of fun. There was some interesting feedback and I have written a full summary of the feedback as well as how the session went to include in the main project report. The session was helped by having three volunteers and a trainee occupational therapist there. Having the extra people helped patients to focus in their various groups when playing music together.

There was interest stated for the proposed interventions to be made available for patients to take home and play with other musicians. I had to explain that the proposed interventions were very much in a prototype stage and that they would need some serious testing to make sure they worked efficiently without anyone on hand to sort out any technical problems.

Calibrating The Electronic Stress Balls

I have managed to devise a better way to keep track of the pressure signals for each of the balls. Using sliders to calibrate on the fly will help overcome the issues as documented in the previous two stroke group meetings with patients. By using the following statement if $f1 < $f2 then 1. else -1 I am able to use a simple slider object to always make sure the input signal is 0.1 or somewhere near that above the calibration point meaning the balls are far less likely to falsely trigger sounds.

The playability of the stress balls is now far easier to control and I can doctor each calibration setting in real time to suit the needs of each individual patient who is playing them. The video below illustrates this fact.


Electronic Sound Blocks Build 1.9

Using the fabric and velostat approach to measure the resistance I can now trigger sounds with a beater hitting very soft or very hard and at various speeds. This is far more promising that the copper tape version using a hacked USB keyboard. Now using the Arduino Leonardo board we can take in the 12 separate analog signals from the sound blocks.

I still only have one wood block to prototype with and more work has to be done to smooth the signal in the hardware itself as the signal fluctuates enough to cause issues when there is a very sensitive beater reading required. Maurice from Goldsmiths Psychology lab has some parts on order that should help to smooth out the constant resistance readings allowing for a threshold amount to be reached. Once this threshold is reached the signal will be sent to an amplifier component and then sent to a timer that will send a consistent signal to trigger sounds in Max MSP. This idea will take some time to implement and may not be ready in time to trial with any patients for a few weeks.

Here is a video of the current prototype working pretty well.

I need to try and smooth out the fabric using an iron perhaps as there is a slight kink in it at the moment which lends to some double note triggers. I have some software constraints in place to help achieve the sensitivity and rapidity required for the minimal viable product (MVP). By using an if statement and the bucket object I take a few samples and compare them against one another to find out when a change has happened within a certain timeframe. This is the only way I have managed to achieve the readings required for the very rapid beater hit requirement.  At this time the if statement is as follows. if $f1 < $f2 -0.0099 then 1. else -1.

Sound Board Progress

I am still waiting on the next batch of conductive fabric Ribstop. It will not be available till after my next Stroke Group meeting on Tuesday the 15th. This is really quite frustrating and my plan was to rebuild the first prototype by removing the large and annoying speaker wires and replacing with some really thin ribbon cable I have. However I have decided to hold fire until I get all my materials for a complete rebuild as I have experimented with the current prototype tonight and the video below shows that it is actually working quite well.


Wire Comparison

The image here illustrates just how thick the speaker wires from my first build are compared to a 40 way ribbon cable that I will use for my final Sound Board grid. I ended up padding out the underside of the felt grid to compensate for the wires with extra felt and an extra length of wire. This meant that when triggering sounds on the board it was a little bouncy and not ideal for triggering sounds with some lighter weights. This is why in the Stroke Group meeting yesterday I used well weighted cups and a honey pot to allow for this springiness. My next build should deal with this allowing for smooth triggering of notes with a more varied set of objects.