Meditation Using Muse Device with Ariel Garten | Podcast #304

We all have thoughts, and none of us are good at meditation at first, during, or maybe at the end. Here’s Ariel Garnet, introducing us to the Muse and the use of an approach NOT to get rid of those thoughts but to help you make yourself aware of those thoughts and increase the choice of what to do with those. 

Are you doing it right? The Muse uses Machine Learning Approach, which has an algorithm that analyzes brain wave activity. There, it shows focused attention (when it’s quiet) and distracted or wandering thoughts (when there’s a storm pick-up). Also, concentrated attention and meditation have a natural anchor such as word, part of the body, or our breath, which is more accessible.  Ariel added that we have different forms of meditation and focused attention is the most common one. It puts the attention to your breath instead of following your thoughts and shifting it to yourself. 

What’s the minimum dose? Twenty (20) minutes can be heavy, so it’s acceptable to do it up to what’s bearable for beginners and usually ten (10) minutes for regulars. It also shows that there are improvements with the body’s cognitive function, inhibition, and decrease in stress. Don’t miss the full video to see how it works!

Dr. Justin Marchegiani

Dr. Justin Marchegiani

In this episode, we cover:

0:36      Muse Meditation Device

3:49      Basics of Meditation

9:30      How Muse Gets the Data

13:34    Biofeedback Devices

21:07    How Muse Works

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Dr. Justin Marchegiani: And we are alive. It’s Dr. J here in the house with Ariel Garten, the founder of the Muse meditation device, really excited to have her on today we’re going to talk about this awesome new cutting edge technology. And we’ll kind of also just bring it back down to the basics of meditation. What is it? What are the benefits? What’s happening in your brain and how to actually apply it? Ariel, welcome to the podcast.

Ariel Garten: Thank you my sincere pleasure to be here. Hello, everyone.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Excellent. Well, why don’t you tell the listeners a little bit more about yourself? And how did you make this journey into meditation and then what made you want to come up with this new technology to enhance that?

Ariel Garten: Sure. So my own background is a training in neuroscience. So I was fascinated by the brain and how it works. I then became a psychotherapist and began dealing with patients every day helping them shift their own mental state and recognized how difficult it was. And meditation was a skill that I was taught as something to use inside of my practice with my patients. But I would teach my patients to do it, and they would rarely actually start the habit. So it became this really frustrating process of teaching someone to meditate, and then not actually seeing the benefits rolling out into their life. I, at the same time was working in a research lab with Dr. Steve Mann, and he had an early brain computer interface system. So using eg electrodes, we could track your brainwaves and then turn that brainwave activity into sound. And we really had this aha moment, myself and my co founders of muse, Chris and Trevor, we had this aha moment that if we can make this invisible, intangible process, in your mind, visible and tangible, maybe we could apply that to meditation, maybe we could actually help people hear what was going on inside their mind while they meditated. And in doing so actually get people to start and maintain their meditation practice, if they could get real feedback and have real data from their brain. And that was born.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Cool. So you have this kind of biofeedback, that kind of help you distinguish if you were in a good kind of brain wavelength state, so to speak. And then how does that how does that sound compute? So like, is it what’s the wavelength in your brain? That’s supposedly good? And how does it know that you’re there? And how does it How does it do all that connection back and forth?

Ariel Garten: Sure. So the old school approach to doing biofeedback or neurofeedback on meditation, is just to look at your band. So if you’re in beta band, you’re thinking in your brains all over the place, you’re likely not meditating. If you’re an alpha, you’re seeing an increase in meditation. And if you’re seeing some data, then there’s even more meditation. That was the old school way of doing meditation. At this point, we’ve now taught literally hundreds of thousands of people to meditate using news. And so we use a machine learning approach. And we have an algorithm that understands when you’re in focused attention, versus when your mind is wandering. So it analyzes every aspect of your brainwave activity at that moment, and knows if you’re specifically in focused attention, which is the fundamental of a focused attention meditation, or if your mind has wandered and is distracted. And what we do is we turn that into a sound that’s very easy to understand that it’s your mind. So when you’re focused, the sound is quiet. And when you’re distracted, you hear a storm pickup, it’s like my mind is stormy. Oh, okay, let’s bring it back to calm. And when you focus a calm again. And when your mind gets distracted on a thought up mind to stormy, then bring it back down to calm.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: It’s interesting, because I find a lot of people and even myself when they’re doing a meditation, one of the first things they kind of think to themselves is, am I doing this, right? Like, I’m not sure there’s kind of this hesitation of is this, is this all wrong? So I kind of like the fact that you get a little bit of a feedback. And so let’s say you’re using the device, right? And you get the storm clouds coming in, what should be the focus, like, what should that switch be to bring you back on track? 

Ariel Garten: Sure. So you bring your attention back to your breath. So a focused attention. Meditation always has a neutral anchor, it could be your breath, that could be a word, it could be a part of your body, breath tends to be the easiest because your breath is always there. By simply counting your breaths, you’re bringing yourself back to a neutral anchor. You’re taking your mind out of your wandering thoughts into a place that is neutral and unintentional. Because most of us spend our life just wandering in our thoughts. Most of us just spend our life with the mind with thinking that just keeps going and we assume it’s supposed to be that way. But when you actually start a meditation practice, and recognize that you can identify when you’re thinking and choose to take your mind away from there and put your attention on something else other than your thoughts. At that moment, you fundamentally change your relationship to your thinking. You fundamentally can now choose the contents of your mind. And since most of the things in our mind are negative, repetitive, not particularly helpful, when we’re able to actually have choice over the contents of our own mental space and how we attend to it, you can dramatically shift the amount of stress, negativity, anxiety etc. in your life.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Okay, very interesting. All right, so now someone’s coming into this or like, Hey, I haven’t even started meditating at all yet. So what does meditation look like for you is it just kind of what you kind of implied earlier where you’re just bringing that anchor, bringing that focus of that anchor back to the breath. And you’re just focusing on that, while you breathe in and out throughout the nose is that pretty much it to keep it simple for the listeners?

Ariel Garten: Totally. So that is the basis of a focused attention meditation, there are lots of different forms of meditation of focused attention is the most common. And what you’re simply doing is you’re putting your attention on your breath, your mind will eventually have a thought, because all of us have thoughts, it’s okay, you then notice that you have that thought, and instead of following the thought and thinking about your grocery list, or your husband, or whatever, you choose to say, Nope, I’m gonna let that thought Go and bring my attention elsewhere. Other than my thinking, I’m going to bring my attention back to my breath. And you just do this very simple activity over and over again. And the simple activity triggers those profound results, by the fact that you are actually now shifting the relationship to your own mind.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Interesting, okay. And so it’s okay, you shouldn’t beat yourself up, if your thoughts go off, just kind of recenter it back, be the observer of that, like, there should be no shame or any of that kind of feeling. If you can’t quite do it, or you can’t quite stick on it.

Ariel Garten: Exactly. None of us are good at meditation at the beginning, or even halfway through or even at the end. You know, we all have thoughts, and that’s okay. You’re not trying to get rid of your thoughts. You’re trying to make yourself aware of them and increase the choice about what you do with those thoughts.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Okay. All right, interesting. So what’s the minimum dose to get some benefits? So if someone’s coming in is five minutes enough? Like what what do you recommend as a beginner to kind of see some benefit, but make the make the step to commit? Pretty easy?

Ariel Garten: Yeah, so with studies with news, we’ve looked at 10 minutes of meditation per day, and at 10 minutes of meditation, over six weeks, in trial studies, we’ve been able to see improvements in your relationship to your body, so less self reported, headache, nausea, etc, you’ve been able to see improvement in cognitive function as measured by the script task and go nogo tasks, improvement and inhibition, and obviously, a decrease in stress and improvement in calm. Okay, so in a lot of the studies in the literature, they look at 20 minutes a day, but 20 minutes a day is a lot to meditate for a novice. So the best amount of for you to meditate right now, if you’ve never meditated is whatever amount you can bear it for initially. That could be three minutes, that could be five minutes, you just want to start and try to do it consistently. Just five-

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Five minutes be done twice a day?

Ariel Garten: Absolutely. 

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Okay. All right, cool. And what’s the goal wavelength that we want our brain to be in during this meditation state.

Ariel Garten: So there’s, as I said, the old school way was to look at a goal wavelength. Now it’s no longer so much about the goal wavelength, it is about the state that you are in, and our brains are much more complicated than simply being an alpha or simply being in beta. Okay, what we see when you meditate is a significant increase in alpha activity. And also sometimes an increase in beta coherence. When you it’s not so just as simple as alpha, because alpha peak frequency changes as you age, okay, so when you’re young, you have the most amount of alpha at around 10 and a half hertz, let’s say, quite fast. As you age, your alpha peak, frequency slows down. So your alpha peak might be at 11 hertz, 12 hertz. And so as you engage in meditation practice, some of what might you might be looking to do is both to increase your alpha activity, and potentially to increase your alpha, decrease your alpha frequency to a faster wave. So it’s, it’s a lot more complicated once you start looking at the nuance of it.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Okay, all right, got it. And then what’s our active wavelength state when we’re just totally alert, doing stuff and working throughout the day?

Ariel Garten: Again, hard to say, when you’re active and engaged, you tend to be in beta waves when you’re thinking, but being in flow has a slightly different brainwave characteristic. And we also have different brain waves that we emit from different parts of our head. Okay, so you know, high, high, theta frontal midline, is going to be associated with really high attention, but high data from another part of your brain is also associated with mind wandering and ADHD. You know, it’s nuanced.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Okay, got it. That makes sense. And so how is the device grabbing all this Intel? So is it I know it’s a device you put I think you guys have a Bluetooth connection or Bluetooth connection now. Correct?

Ariel Garten: Yep. So it is four channels of eg data. So it kind of slips on just like a pair of glasses. For those of you looking at the YouTube you can see the device now.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Video guys, if you’re listening on the podcast, we’ll put the YouTube link below if you want to see the actual demo.

Ariel Garten: Yep. Or you can go to choosemuse.com/welcome. We also have videos there. That shows you what the device looks like. And so there’s two channels of eg data on the forehead and two behind the ears. And so that’s enough to track your brainwaves associated with focused attention versus mind wandering. And then that data sent to your smartphone or tablet where it interprets your brain activity. And lets you know, when you’re in the meditation zone and when you’re not. So you’re getting this beautiful guided feedback during your meditation. And then after the fact you see data, charts, graphs, scores, things that actually show you moment to moment what your brain was doing, and let you see your improvement session on session.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Okay, that’s really cool. And now when you’re doing the muse, you have the device on. Is there any concern at all from you with the Bluetooth radiation that that’s connecting the headset to the to the phone or the smart device?

Ariel Garten: So the Bluetooth antenna faces outwards? So the radiation is going out towards your phone? It’s okay, low energy. So I mean, the amount of radiation that’s coming off there is infantile asmall, relative to even having your phone on the table. 

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Oh, good. That’s good. Excellent. All right. So we have this device on right we’re utilizing it. What do you notice as correlation with a device meaning like if I’m eating diet changes, certain supplementation? I’ve noticed some patients of mine that have done the Muse device before and they’ve done magnesium and l theanine and different nutrients they’ve noticed, improve Muse scores, what associations have you guys made just on your own or clinically in practice with your patients?

Ariel Garten: Oh, that’s a great question. Nobody’s ever asked me that. That’s super cool. Definitely, we notice when people start to meditate, they start to improve more habits in their life. So this is actually something that you see in the meditation literature that when somebody starts a meditation practice, it then becomes easier to adhere to the other things that you’re trying to do. Because you become more mindful, and you become more intentional. So you know, the the suggestion there is that you’re then more likely to take your supplements, you’re then more likely to help, you know, improve your sleep patterns. One of the things that we see when people start musing is that they report better sleep, and that they use Muse before they go to bed in order to improve their sleep. And so I we haven’t actually looked at what are the things that make your meditation better, but we’ve looked a fair amount at what are the things that when you meditate, also seem to be getting better in your life and in your health, and got their vast.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Got it. So you’re looking at Muse and then the effect benefits of it versus hey, these things over here may actually help make that Muse session better.

Ariel Garten: Yeah, and we have a number of studies running. So there have been over 200 published papers using Muse both as a clinical grade eg and a meditation tool. And the Mayo Clinic recently ran a study with breast cancer patients awaiting surgery. And they saw that using Muse through their surgery process was able to decrease the stress of surgery, improve their fatigue and quality of life. And now Mayo Clinic is looking at this relative to breast cancer patients going through chemotherapy, because they’re interested in understanding the impact of meditation with different forms of other interventions, be it surgery, chemotherapy, etc. And they’re also looking at a number of other disease states and studies using news to see how meditating with news can improve the outcome of those states.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Very cool. So what was your experience like with other neurofeedback devices? While you were a clinician seeing patients? We did you have a lot of experience with those devices? And then did you feel like Ah, this could be better, or we need to make something more portable for patients? What was your experience like with that early technology? And then how did it morph with the newer one?

Ariel Garten: So as a clinician, I didn’t use neurofeedback devices, but I had experience with biofeedback devices, and definitely felt that they gave interesting information, but that they didn’t actually give information about the brain. You know, they might tell you what your heart rate is doing, what your galvanic skin response is, but all of those are downstream effects of what war probably was initiated in your own mind. You know, the the anxious thoughts, the triggers that were mental that then ramp the body that then ramped the mind in this feed forward way. So, you know, we saw that there was a great opportunity. It was really at the beginning of the tracking movement, where you had wearables that track your sleep and your steps, but absolutely nothing that tracked your brain. And so we were able to develop Muse as an eg that would track your brain during meditation. And then since then, we’ve added more biofeedback methodologies to the same device. So in the Muse to you have eg degree feedback on your brain, there’s accelerometers and gyroscopes give you feedback on your body, there’s a breath sensor so you can get feedback on your breath rate and train yourself for different breathing exercises. There’s a PPG sensor to track your heart rate. And so you can actually hear the beating of your heart like the beating of a drum and learn to tune your interoception your understanding of your own internal state, and to know when your heart is increasing and decreasing can help you train your heart rate variability. So we’ve you know, pilot On a whole bunch of biofeedback methodologies on top of the neurofeedback as we’ve been on the path of creating and releasing news over the last six years.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Cool. So biofeedback would be more things related to heart rate breathing or neurofeedback is more biofeedback, specific to the brain wavelength, that kind of stuff. Okay, good. That makes sense. How does this correlate to like devices that are HRV heart rate variability, which a lot of people like the M wave devices that kind of connect heart connection to the brain and that coherent state of coherence we hear of that helps with with parasympathetic kind of repair and stress reduction. How does that? How do they connect? Is there a connection at all?

Ariel Garten: I can talk about that a little. It’s a cool question. So when you’re looking at your HRV, most people don’t understand what it is. So when you breathe in, your heart rate increases. As you breathe out, your heart rate decreases, this pattern is called your sinusoidal arrhythmia. And what your HRV is, is the difference between the fastest heartbeat on your intake and your slowest heartbeat on your exhale. So that’s why extended exhales actually make you more relaxed, because your heart rate is slowing more and more and more throughout the course of your exhale. And so an extended exhale is actually going to increase your heart rate variability. Now, when you’re super stressed, you have a very shallow change between your increase and your decrease of your heart, you’re probably breathing shallowly and your heart rate is going in parallel. So when you’re super stressed, you just see like a tiny wiggly line for your heart rate variability. When you’re relaxed, you have a great increase in decrease a great like up and down a nice, beautiful sinusoidal wave that goes with your HRV. And so that’s how you see the increase in your HRV. When you’re relaxed. In terms of the correlation with meditation, as you do the breathing through your meditation and relax your body and take your mind away from stressful thoughts. You are typically inherently increasing your heart rate variability, the correlation is not perfect one to one. But as you start to relax the mind and the body relaxes through deep breathing, you also see a beautiful change and shift in your HRV. And when you look at long term correlations for HRV, you see that people who are depressed for example, have very low HRV. And people who are not depressed and unhealthy states have an increase in HRV. So the kinds of effects you get with meditation also parallel the kinds of things you might see in somebody’s HRV.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’s awesome. Is that a device? Or is that a biofeedback tool that you may add to the Muse at some point.

Ariel Garten: Um, so with the existing Muse Muse to and are new and Muse as you’re able to see a graph of your heart rate. So you can actually see your heartbeats like the increase in the decrease, you can visually see your HRV, we don’t give you an HRV calculation, because there’s actually a little bit of a controversy in the scientific field around how accurate instantaneous HRV is. So the pure science says that you need long term calculations of somebody’s heart rate in order to really get their HRV. So we’ve steered away from a specific HRV calculation, but you can see it on the graph like you can see actually what’s going on in your heart. And it’s quite amazing. You can see when your HRV is good, and when it’s short.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Very cool, what other little kind of nuances with the device you can share with us that could be could apply to improve our health on top of what you already mentioned so far.

Ariel Garten: Sure. So we have a new device that just came out Muse s, and for those of you watching the video, it is right here. It is a soft, comfortable form factor, and the module just pops off, you can watch the band. And we made it specifically for people who want to track their brain overnight and help them to fall asleep. So we found a lot of people were using us to help them fall asleep. And but you’d have to take your Muse device off when you fell asleep. So we made Muse s super comfy, so you can just fall asleep with it on. And we give you these beautiful things called sleep journeys, guided sleep journeys, they’re guided meditations that lull you into sleep. And you also get a soundtrack that’s actually built from your body that’s designed to entrain you into sleep faster. So you might hear the beating of your heart like the chirping of crickets and the soundscape. Or the movements of your body like the lapping of waves, you’re literally hearing your own body. And then what we do is as you start to get into a rhythm and slow down a little bit, we actually slow down the soundtrack in a way that’s designed to train you to fall asleep faster. And so it’s a super beautiful experience. And then towards the end of this year, we’re releasing comprehensive eg sleep tracking. So you’ll be able to see all sorts of details about your night’s sleep even you know coffee details like the amount of sleep spindles you had.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’s really cool. I think anytime you’re trying to teach someone to develop a new habit, especially when they don’t have a lot of confidence, it’s important to have a coach or someone to kind of pat them on the back or give them encouragement that they’re doing the right thing or, or feedback after doing the wrong thing. And I think the benefit of this device, it really provides that little bit of a meditation coach over your shoulder to give you a pat in the back or give you feedback if you’re not on the right track. So I think it’s really beneficial. Because if people can can do it and feel confident about it, they’re more likely to make it part of their kind of day in day out habits.

Ariel Garten: Absolutely. That’s literally why we built this, whether you’re somebody who’s never meditated before, and is just like what’s going on, or you’re an expert meditator who wants more insight into your process. This is a device that’s literally like a little coach or guru inside your head, encouraging you showing you what’s going on giving you your feedback, so that you can know when you can improve.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Cool. So how does this work? So you put the device on? Is there any way you can do it while we’re on live on the podcast here?

Ariel Garten: Not while holding my microphone simultaneously.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’d be amazing. 

Ariel Garten: So so this is the Muse here. It slips on. Great, it then would connect to the app on my phone. So here is I don’t think you can see there’s too much glare right there. There you go. There’s the Muse app. And so inside, that’s my notification that I have new content available. Inside the Muse app, you have meditations for the mind. And there you can set the length of time that you’d like to meditate for the soundscape you’d like to use what you’d like guidance or not. We also have meditations for the heart, where you’re hearing the heart like the beating of the drum, you can actually see your own heart rate variability and what it’s doing more meditations for the breath for the body. We have an entire section of guided content here. Let me open that for you. Where we have literally hundreds of meditations for stress, anxiety sleep, we say if you’ve got a problem in your life, we’ve got a meditation for that. So whether it’s performance, workplace, etc you can go in there and really find the thing that you’re trying to work on or is bothering you and get a meditation and guidance and insight to help you in that process. With or without your Muse.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: I love it. I totally love it. I’m really excited to try this out get my own device go and that’s awesome. We’ll put a link here for the listeners choosemuse.com/welcome, choosemuse.com/welcome. And the discount code will be welcome 10 we’ll put the links below. So if you guys are driving and you’re active, we’ll put that below so you can access the later areas or anything else you want to leave the listeners with right now.

Ariel Garten: Really the understanding that if you’ve tried meditation before, and you’re like, I don’t know, I’m not good at it, whatever. Put all of that behind you because literally anyone can meditate. It’s not about whether you’re good at it. Whether you feel like you did it well or not. None of that matters. Meditation is just a process that you practice a little bit every day. And when you do it you will start to see the fruits and the benefits in your life.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Love it is there anywhere else people can get more information about you or the device.

Ariel Garten: At choosemuse.com/welcome. There’s lots of information about the device, the neuroscience behind it and more.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Awesome. Ariel, thank you so much for being part of the podcast.

Ariel Garten: My sincere pleasure. Thank you.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Thank you.


References:

https://justinhealth.com/

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