Muse's "Calibration Stage" Creates a "Relative" Baseline that Skews Meditation Results & Expectations

I was under the impression that a “calm” mind while meditating was indicated by the delta wave and an “active” mind such as reading and calculating (mathematics) was indicated by non-delta waves (not sure which ones. Alpha?).

In other words, they are not the same mind state.

So how can I consistently and deliberately cause muse birds to chirp while I’m actively reading and performing mathematics? I can also “think thoughts” and not push them out of my mind and be in “delta wave” state as well.

Yes, I’ve done the typical meditation of focusing on the breath, silent chant, etc. which causes the muse birds to consistently chirp.

But I’ve also experimented and I can easily achieve start to finish “chirping” for a solid 10 minutes while reading, calculating and persistent thinking of images and narrative situations (while meditating).

Can someone please explain to me how this can happen? What do I not understand about waves and what the mind should be or not be doing?

At this moment, I wonder if the Muse is really doing what it claims.

Thank you for any help. I’d really like to believe in my Muse headband and continue to use it.

From what I understand, and I’m not the expert, Muse calibrates the device during the first minute when it says it is reading your brainwaves. Then the calm/active states are calculated relative to that. They are not based solely on brainwaves. They are relative to your calibration. So if your brain is highly active during calibration it might be possible to get birds in a state relatively calm compared to that. I try to challenge myself by making the calibrated state as calm as possible then I have to go much deeper in my meditation to get birds.

If you want to see actual alpha, beta, theta, etc. waves and see how they jump up and down with various tasks. You can get the Muse Monitor app which shows you the separate brainwaves.

That’s a very interesting point. I was discouraged after my findings but I’ll try what you do and calibrate in as a calm state as possible and then see whether or not the birds appear when I do “active” mental tasks. Thanks for the suggestion!

Reading and calculating are states of concentration which are also alpha state

I’d be interested to hear what happens. For me if I calibrate while calm it is more of a challenge to get the birds :slight_smile:

Results of my testing and experience thus far:

  • The “calibration” stage creates a baseline.
  • If mental activity drops below this baseline far enough, birds will chirp.
  • If the baseline is created while “actively” thinking, it is easier to “chirp”.
  • If the baseline is created while “calm”, it is harder to “chirp”.
  • Conversely, I noticed I couldn’t cause my “active” thinking to be longer than a minute. Even while engaged in highly active mental states such as reading and performing complex computer tasks such as coding.
  • Because I can manipulate the baseline during configuration stage, I have been able to easily achieve non-stop, continuous chirping for my entire meditation session by performing an “active mental” task (reading, coding, etc.) during the calibration stage and then being relatively calm during the meditation stage (using a variety of meditation techniques). Try “active thinking” calibration yourself and let me know your results.

So I experimented and created a baseline while in a physically relaxed and calm mental state that always causes the birds to chirp.

Then I monitored my mental activity while “working” on computer tasks.

I was able to be in an “active” state for over 4 minutes. I’ve never been able to achieve this before.

Unfortunately, this leads me to wonder if Muse is using the “chirping birds” application and its baseline method to make it easier for the user to feel they are “meditating”.

From what I understand, delta wave is “true meditation” since this is observation based on research performed with Tibetan monks.

However, Muse is not actually showing you are in delta when the birds chirp. Only that you are lower than when you first started. It’s relative and therefore, in my opinion, misleading.

So it appears this app is useless if you’re trying to achieve a true delta state like I am.

I’ll try the muse monitor to experiment with the raw data.

Post edit: Looks like others have made the same observation:

@Jason_Ing, my conclusion is that for Muse to make any inference over time (or to show some relative level of delta waves compared to some baseline), one needs to consistently replicate the same “calibration state” before each meditation session as I referred to here: Giving up meditation after Muse

If I were Muse, I’d own up the reason for recalibration before each meditation session. My guess for that reason is that there are many environment factors that affect the device’s accuracy that the device Muse is attempting to suppress as it can be considered noise. However, recalibration to suppress this noise limits a potential key benefit of comparing with some absolute baseline, that most users would expect from this device (they want to see progress over time in their meditation practice).

Muse uses long term data for the Heart Meditation. Historically, I did heart meditation before doing much else in the morning. Lately, I did heart meditation shortly after doing intensive exercise when my heart rate was 10 bpm faster. Heart meditation gave zero birds and feedback said I was above my baseline all the time, even though my heart rate went down 5 bpm faster during the meditation session to a level of about 5 bpm faster than my long-term heart rate of around 50 bpm.