Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Science & SF Tidbits: Brain Music

Music from the brain and the brain on music:

Scale-Free Brain-Wave Music from Simultaneously EEG and fMRI Recordings - PLoS One

Neuroscience + art = the music of our minds

A team of Chinese scientists has proposed a new method of translating the signals from EEG-fMRI brain scans into music. We'll have to wait and see if the music eventually is an aid to diagnosis or medical treatment as the authors hope, or if this turns out to be an off-beat art project:
"The brain music, as one of the human brain's intelligence product, embodies the secret of brain in an artistic style, provides the platform for scientist and artist to work together to understand ourselves, and it is also a new interactive link between the human brain and music. We hope the on-going progresses of the brain signals based music will properly unravel part of the truth in the brain, and then to be used for clinical diagnosis and bio-feedback therapy in the future."
Listen to the EEG music

Image: Illustration of the score of EEG-fMRI music from Lu J, Wu D, Yang H, Luo C, Li C, et al. (2012) Scale-Free Brain-Wave Music from Simultaneously EEG and fMRI Recordings. PLoS ONE 7(11): e49773. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049773 Shared under a CC-BY-2.5 license.

Brain scans of rappers shed light on creativity » Nature News

What does a rapper's brain look like while he's freestyling? Neuroscientists at the National Institutes of Health had 12 rappers improvise while in an MRI machine. What they found was that brain activity in the medial prefrontal cortex increased, and activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decreased. What that may mean is that the parts of the brain involved in cognitive "executive functions" like planning, problem solving, attention and verbal reasoning might be relaxed during the creative process.

This could explain why the creation of music can seem to flow during improvisation without any conscious thought. As study co-author and alternative hip-hop artist Open Mike Eagle puts it:
“That’s kind of the nature of that type of improvisation. Even as people who do it, we’re not 100% sure of where we’re getting improvisation from.”
Notes & Neurons: In Search of the Common Chorus

Performer Bobby McFerrin and cognitive neuroscientist Daniel Levitin teamed up at the 2009 World Science Festival to demonstrate how our brains are wired for music.

In this clip McFerrin "plays" the audience with the pentatonic scale:

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