Fish-to-Brain Interfaces, Antony Hall, Ljubljana

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Fish brains.jpg

Workshop outline

This workshop will explore low-fi methods of 'brain hacking', using sound and light, to create hallucinatory effects, tactile and visual ques to trick our minds into thinking parts of our body have transformed or moved. Participants become experimental subjects investigating extra-perception, electro-physiology and ‘body as electrical image’ key concepts in Enki project. Our perception of the world is shaped by our expectations and assumptions, as well as by our sensory systems. As an introduction we will talk about sensory systems in animals, owls and electric fish for example, before talking about human perception and how it can be tricked.



Antony Hall

Antony Hall (UK), who loves to do Tabletop Experiments, works on various projects and participated at the Hackteria Lab - Dock18 - 6-9 April 2010

Workshop Themes and Activities

'Brain hacking'

Ganzfeld perception experiment (from the German for “entire field”) 'is a technique used in the field of parapsychology to test individuals for extra-sensory perception (ESP). It uses homogeneous and unpatterned sensory stimulation to produce an effect similar to sensory deprivation. The deprivation of patterned sensory input is said to be conducive to inwardly-generated impressions.' We will use ping-pong balls placed over the eyelids to create homogenous fields and listen to white noise to see what happens. Follow this link for more info Ganzfeld_experiment

Experimenting with Binaural beats - Pseudo science? We can discuss, I discovered that the Fish naturally emit binaural frequencies when interacting with each other and worked out ways to harness them for my experiments.

Electro-magnetic perception and transmission

Activity using phones as sound source for generating electromagnetic field. Participants wear amp and loop to create electromagnetic field to transmit in a suimilar way to the fish. Using pickup coils it is possible to detect these fields. Using this technology we can think about ways to navigate and communicate without using visual perception. This is an good activity to demonstrate how electric fish interact and simulates the 'sound' very effectively. Also illustrating why these fish move in a different way to non electrogenic fish.

Transmitter materials

  • 12wat amplifier,
  • Wire [bell wire of transformer wire]
  • A sound source in the form of a mobile phone with a signal generator app.

Receiver materials

  • Pickup coil from guitar,
  • 12w amp with speaker, or Mini Amp with built in speaker [DJ tech are best in terms of loudness and pre-amplification.

Method: The transmitter is created by attaching a long loop of wire in place of a speaker. In the activity we will tape the loop around the body to make your self in to a kind of cyborg, able to transmit electromagnetic signals. The receiver should also attach the pickup coil to some part of the body other than hands. Side of arms or head might be good.

Explanation The electrical current in the wire creates an electromagnetic field around the wire. Participants should experiment with shape and size of loop as well as making multiple windings of the coil around the body. When receiver and transmitter interact they will have to move around each other to detect a good signal, mixing transmitting cyborg bodies can create interesting wave interference.

By using similar frequencies – say 400hz and 401hz you will hear modulating wave interference between signals. With several transmitting and interacting bodies the sound becomes more interesting.

'Self' perception. Seeing is believing

Humans are primarily visual in their thinking to such an extent the human mind can easily be tricked using just this sence. Experiments have shown that we can be tricked into thinking we are actually outside our own bodies. We will explore simple perceptual experiments to show that self-perception, more specifically, the location of the ‘self’ is plastic and not concrete. Where do we locate our selves? This question is interesting when considering the Electric fish extended electro physical body. How can humans adapt to extra perceptual modifications?

The Rubber Hand Illusion The famous Rubber hand illusion can be done with any fake hand. More interestingly you can make your own hands from clay or fill rubber gloves with material. This allows us to experimentally find the limits of our own perceptual systems; What can we trick our own minds into physically believing? Rubber Hand Illusion Experiment variations


Fish_simulator BrainHack circuit

Basics of 'bio-feedback' and 'optical brain' machines and 'audio entrainment': Optical stimulation and overload created by certain ranges of stroboscopic flashing can in some perole create highly hallucinogenic visual patterns that in turn effect our brain states. The Electric fish in Enki control these frequencies but we will attempt to create a low fi version based on simple biofeedback. Enki interface circuit.jpg

Fish2BrainHack simulator v2.jpg

Marc fish test.JPG

Mask for etching

download the mask for etching here: File:Brain hack glasses v2 fish mask.pdf

Brain hack glasses v5 Yogya.jpg

download the SURVIVE-mask for etching here: File:brain_hack_glasses_v5_Yogya.pdf


  • 4093 CMOS quad-NAND gate
  • 3 - 8 MOhm resistor
  • 0.4 - 0.8 µF Capacitor
  • 2 bright LED's
  • Battery Clip (either 9V clip - very bright, or 2 holders for 3V coin batteries)

Material preps

  • GSR sensors? Are we ok to use salami sensor kit for this?

will making this be part of the workshop? yeah, let's do that. i got all the parts, maybe make a special redesigned circuit for the workshop, like a souvenir. [Excellent idea - thanks]

I use sound output to go direct to sound to light circuit - aka bio feedback brain machine -> clarify, please

  • need foil for sensor (what kinda foil? alu? yeah- but actually we can just use wire with velcro)
  • velco (buy in LJ)
  • 12x pingpong balls (buy in LJ)
  • elastic bands (MD brings)
  • sound system (Just to play sounds out loud, perhaps computer speakers)
  • 6x head phones, [ Do we have any laptops or computers to use as sound sources? ie to listen to sounds with, there are binural tone generators we can use with brain machine>
  • 4 x Velman 12v 18w amplifiers £8-12 each – [AH will bring these]
  • 1x roll of Electrical cable, [use for making loop]
  • 2x Pickup coils £12each (we'll get some...) you know like guitar pickup coils]
  • bag of Clay for making new hands
  • Rubber gloves, latex gloves (MD brings)

Printing large A3 charts to map volt meter measurements of skin votage and polarity.[i have to sort the files for this or perhaps we just draw these on paper n the workshop, more fun]