Hack the Brain – The Day After

After a good night’s sleep in my own bed the Hack the Brain hackathon is clearly over. Words like ‘inspiring’, ‘fascinating’, ‘mind-blowing’ or some other tags that TED seems to add to every single one of their talks, definitely come to mind. In this post I’ll explain more about the project our team has made and mention some other interesting projects.

Lucid Dreaming

Let’s start with the winning team which used Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation to induce lucid dreams during REM sleep. Their research was based on a very recent paper (appears to be offline now) which explains a technique to induce lucid dreams in 77% of their subjects. The team made an Arduino-based tACS device to supply a 40 Hz signal and used themselves as their subjects. The jury recognized that the Lucid Dreaming project delivered the most scientific value of all projects. Or, as team member Ot de Wiljes joked during drinks: “We were the only ones who actually used references”. Extra credits to Arjen Suijker who -in lack of a working multimeter- supplied an unknown electrical current through his brain, an amount of dedication that reminds me of Newton jamming needles in his optical nerve to better understand our visual system.

Hack the Brain winners
Arjen Suijker, Lisa Rombout (who also writes for this website), Ot de Wiljes and Dennis Luijer. Photo by: Dennis Luijer


During the weekend we (Bert Spaan, Eva Delincakova, Paul Manwaring and me) created an immersive 3D environment of EEG data using the Oculus Rift. To experience our project you wear a cap with electrodes to capture an EEG signal from the electrical activity in your brain. The Oculus Rift places you inside your brain from where you can see the captured brain activity and fly through your brain. The intensity of the visual effects expresses the activity of alpha waves in that part of the brain. This immersive environment could be used by students to better understand brain activity and the EEG signal this produces. ADHD patients could use it as a neurofeedback system to improve their concentration level and neurologists might use it to experience what epileptic patients go through when they have a seizure.


This, but then in an enormous 3D environment… I guess you really need a Rift to experience this. :-)

National television

The whole weekend was packed with interesting talks, people and projects. The VicarVision team made two projects: a Google Glass app which automatically shoots a video when the EEG data looks like you’re experiencing very positive emotions and dating app Braintinder. Team Mad Scientist experimented with using EEG data as a way to identify people and Total Recall made a neurofeedback system to get to a desired brain state. Two teams translated brainwaves into haptic feedback which could be used to give a virtual handshake, a distant hug or as input for improvisational dance. Here you can find all the teams. The crew of the Dutch television program ‘De Kennis van Nu’ reported live from the hackathon, the playlist is embedded below. The television show can be found here.

Launch Mind Extensions website

This post marks the official launch of the Mind Extensions website! Be sure to catch up with the posts already on the website. In the coming weeks we will try to have a new article online every 1-2 weeks. Like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter to always get the latest news!


Only just now I noticed the Lucid Dreaming team mentioned an xkcd as one of their sources of inspiration.

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Robin is the founder of the Mind Extensions website and one of its main contributors. He is a researcher and entrepreneur who is doing his PhD research at the Media Technology group at Leiden University. Robin has a MSc degree in Media Technology and a bachelor's degree in Physics and Philosophy from Leiden University. Robin is the owner of BijlesinWassenaar, a homework guidance and tutoring company and works as a freelance App Developer, Video Producer and teacher. More information about Robin can be found on his personal website

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  • Tjerk

    Nice Blog! compact and attention for the other teams.
    To see the opposite of that, check my blog :)

  • http://www.robindelange.com/ Robin de Lange

    Thanks! The Nature paper seems to be offline by the way

  • Bernd


    I’d like to join a Brainathon next time, is it a really event?

    Also: the question on everybody’s mind is of course: Did the winning team succeed in inducing lucid dreaming?

    I have a copy of the paper btw, if you would like to have it.