Brain activator – The core of the listening therapy
In the early 1950s, Dr. Alfred Tomatis began designing a device to provide therapeutic support for his research in the field of hearing and phonation. In 1958, he presented this device at the Brussels World Fair, which earned him a gold medal. During an interview, a journalist suggested the idea of calling this device "Electronic Ear." As the inventor of the machine, Tomatis immediately took measures to prevent any attempt to copy his devices. Consequently, the therapists trained by him purchased and used the devices of his design. Until 2000, the Atlantis Institute only used the original Tomatis devices.
Jozef Vervoort, également un disciple de Tomatis, songea aux moyens d'ajouter à l'Oreille électronique des fonctionnalités supplémentaires, comme notamment une fonction d'amélioration de la voix. Jozef Vervoort fit toutes sortes d'essais avec les appareils existants, mais sans grand résultat, et commença à chercher de l'aide pour la mise en œuvre technique de ses nouvelles idées. Deux collaborateurs de l'Université de Limbourg s'intéressèrent à la problématique, mais au bout de quelques années, ils réclamèrent de fortes sommes, et la garantie d'une quantité importante d'appareils vendus, ce que Jozef Vervoort n'accepta pas.
Jozef Vervoort, also a disciple of Tomatis, wished to add additional features to the Electronic Ear, including in particular a feature to improve the voice. Jozef Vervoort did all sorts of tests with the existing devices, but without much success, and began to seek help for the technical implementation of his new ideas. Two colleagues from the University of Limburg took an interest in the challenge, but after a few years they demanded large sums of money and the guarantee of a large quantity of devices sold, which Jozef Vervoort did not agree to.
A chance encounter put him in contact with a professor who taught at the Technical University of Dortmund in Germany. With the help of a final year student and a company based in Witten, also in Germany, the Brain Activator was born in the 2000s. Of course, Jozef Vervoort had discussed with Alfred Tomatis in 1999 all the functions he wanted the new device to feature, before implementing them. The founder of the therapy gave him his permission, for example to create the possibility to vary the switch frequency initially fixed at 1000 Hz, in order to be able to reach other regions of the brain, as well as to use audio tracks recorded in 24-bit resolution.
In the course of their daily practice of the therapy, Jozef Vervoort and his teammates came up with new ideas for improvement. The wide variety of possibilities offered by the device was revealed in 1996, when a man affected with stuttering came to the St Truiden center hoping to find a cure for his problem. After several trials, the therapy succeeded: thanks to the application of a delay of 687 milliseconds, namely the time difference between the moment the word is being heard and the moment it is spoken, his stuttering ceased completely.
In one of the rooms of the Mozart-Brain-Lab Institute, we can trace in all details the evolution of the devices. Tomatis' oldest electronic ear dates from 1972. The Brain Activator prototype is a very heavy device with a host of ports and sockets. In contrast, newer devices are optimally suited to the needs of today’s therapy.
Played via headphones specifically designed for the therapy, selected recorded tracks, including Mozart and Gregorian chant or the voice of the biological mother, are modified by a system of amplifiers and filters managed by the device‘s electronic controls.
The neurological effects of this stimulation lead to better auditory perception, and to the reorganization of the auditory signal processing functions.
Looking forward, Jozef Vervoort has other ideas for improving the Brain Activator. "For the therapy, I would like to achieve even more, but most importantly, I would like to take it to an even higher level.