Do you ever feel as though you’re not really in control of your own thoughts? Perhaps you find yourself worrying about things that don’t really matter, or maybe your mind is constantly racing when you’re supposed to be getting shuteye.
Either way, Muse is a brain sensing headband that aims to help you take back control by providing feedback to help you in your meditation practice.
By now you've probably heard of the Muse headband since it's been featured all over on places like Huffington Post, Oprah Magazine, LiveStrong, GQ and several other media outlets. But is it worth the money?
Here's our review of the Muse brain sensing headband.
What is Muse & How Does it Work?
The Muse brain sensing headband works by monitoring brainwave activity while you are attempting to keep your mind still and quiet and rewards successful states of calm with peaceful sounds such as crashing waves or far-off birds. As your mind begins to wonder, the sounds become more chaotic to ‘guide’ you back to a place of stillness and relaxation.
To make all this possible, Muse utilizes 7 sensors – 2 located on the forehead, 2 behind the ears and 3 ‘reference’ sensors which monitor activity across the rest of the brain in order to provide context for the activity in the more ‘key’ regions.
Is All This Really Possible?
In theory, certainly. The Muse headband utilizes EEG technology (electroencephalogram), which looks at increased electrical activity which correlates with small electrical impulses called "action potentials."
This represents the action of neurons and the more rapidly neurons fire, the more active that region of the brain. Faster brainwaves correlate with more activity, while slower brain waves suggest a state of calm tranquility.
It’s worth noting though that different parts of the brain can experience different levels of activity at any one time – hence the need for "reference" sensors.
Of course, the effectiveness of Muse hinges on the sensitivity of the sensors being used, as well as the algorithm employed to extrapolate useful information from all of the data that it collects.
What’s important to recognize here, is that a professional piece of neurofeedback hardware would likely set you back in excess of $1,000, whereas Muse costs significantly less.
With that in mind (no pun intended), you should expect the data to reflect the significantly lower cost. This is an entry-level gadget, rather than something that can offer 100% accurate information. In our tests though, it was certainly fit for purpose with a good breadth and depth of data.
The device itself is a headband with a sleek form-factor that is available in black or grey. It looks attractive and certainly premium enough to reflect the price point. In order to make the most of it though, you’ll need to provide your own earbuds. The full set-up is comfortable, intuitive and doesn’t look too silly – but you might need to spend some time adjusting the hardware to get the connection just right.
Black or White?
The main feature of Muse is its ability to combine the ability to detect and read brain activity with a soundscape designed to provide feedback and guidance as you meditate. Meditation can be a daunting prospect for the inexperienced as it’s sometimes hard to know if you’re ‘doing it right’. By getting that immediate response, you can feel more confident in your practice and continue to see meaningful improvement.
As well as providing guidance during meditation, Muse also offers more detailed information at the end of each session. This allows you to review your data, to set goals for future attempts and to see your gradual improvement (hopefully!) over time.
Muse comes with an app, which allows you to visualize brain data. The app is well-designed and with time, you’ll unlock new features as rewards for your progress.
Another visualization tool called "MuseLab" runs on Mac and Desktop computers and those that are interested in creating their own applications to make use of the data can do so via the Muse SDK. This means that you could potentially create your own apps and tools, which is great news for developers and biohackers.
Customer Reviews & Scores
Overall, Muse has garnered very positive reviews from users on Amazon. It currently has an average of 4.1 stars across 436 ratings. Comments praise the look and design of the product, as well as the benefits that they gained from it.
One especially positive comment from user Kwasi R, said:
This product has changed my life. I was aware of most of the research showing that meditation had positive effects on well being and overall health and had tried to incorporate it into my daily routine but found it difficult. I began practicing, however because my sessions lacked regularity I didn't feel I was getting much out of it. Also I found myself constantly questioning "Am I doing this right?"…Muse motivated me to to keep a regular practice because I could actually see with my own eyes, how much I was getting out of each meditation sitting…I have also noticed that I do not ruminate obsessively as I often did before using Muse.
Accessories & Other Products
The Muse headband can be purchased on its own or with a carry case included, which may be useful for those that want to use the device while travelling or when otherwise away from home.
Muse Headband Hard Carrying Case
- Safeguard your Muse from everyday bumps and scratches
- Quality design and construction keeps headband protected
As mentioned, the product doesn’t come with included earbuds, so you will need to purchase these separately. What’s very important here is to make sure the headphones are comfortable in order to ensure that they won’t interfere with the calm relaxation that is required to make full use of Muse.
Other similar products do exist, such as MindWave from NeuroSky, though the most affordable model ‘Start Kit’, has considerably less favourable reviews. Do some research to find the one that is right for you.
Muse Headband Alternative?
NeuroSky MindWave Mobile BrainWave Starter Kit
- More than 100 brain training games and educational apps available
- Detects raw-brainwaves, EEG power spectrums, eSense meters for attention, meditation, and future algorithms
In conclusion, Muse is a very well-designed piece of hardware with a premium look and feel and a great concept and app driving it all. For those that suffer with anxiety or are just interested to get into meditation, it might well prove to be a very worthwhile purchase and a great way to learn more about yourself.
Of course, you should expect there to be some limitations when purchasing a neurofeedback device for this kind of price, but in this case it’s not so much about the data as what you do with it. The Muse headband gets a full recommendation.