Scientists Create Ambient Music Using Human Brains, MRI Machines

A professor at Trinity College in Connecticut has written what is essentially a MIDI player for the human brain, converting MRI imagery into a sort of bleeping, blooping ambient music.

Here's how it works: subjects were given a variety of stimuli, ranging from a series of flashing lights and a driving simulator to just sitting still in silence, while changes in brain activity were monitored by MRI. The results were then passed through software that assigns specific tones to different regions of the brain, netting something like a song for each scan.

These impulses aren't inherently musical—they've been deliberative assigned tones that sound nice together, and even so sound rather chaotic—nor would you expect them to be, since this is just a novel way to present MRI. What's fascinating is how noticeably different the sounds of active and dormant brains, or troubled and untroubled brains actually are. And not to diminish the seriousness of schizophrenia in any way, but the scanned map and accompanying sounds for an affected brain, seen at about 40 seconds into the video, are nothing short of awesome. [New Scientist]


    Hm. Reminds me of a show I saw at the SOH a good 3 (or 4...) years ago...called listening to the mind listening. However, in that case, they had a subject listen to a particular piece of music, and then recorded the brain waves (I don't know any more regarding the technicalities....) It was then up to a number of different composers to decide how they wanted to use the data from the brain scans... the results varied from wild free jazz interpretations of the "squiggly line" of data, to direct math based compositions of electronic music, to multi-channel (16 channels distinct???) electronic blips and blaps, drones and atmospheres derived from filtering the data in different ways. Was a really interesting show...

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