Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dan Lloyd's Brain Music in New Scientist

Philosopher Dan Lloyd has developed a technique for creating musical files based on brain scans. The brain tunes allow for interesting comparisons between normal and abnormal activity. From a recent article in New Scientist:

To turn such scans into music, philosopher Dan Lloyd at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, identified regions that become active together and assigned each of these groups a different pitch. He then created software that analyses a series of scans and generates the notes at these pitches as the corresponding brain areas light up. Each note is played at a volume that corresponds to the intensity of activity.

When Lloyd fed the software a set of scans of his own brain taken as he switched between driving a virtual-reality car and resting, he found that he could detect the switch-over in the sounds.

Lloyd then gave the software scans taken from volunteers with dementia and schizophrenia, and from healthy volunteers. The brains of people with schizophrenia switched between low and high activity more erratically than healthy brains, allowing the two types of brain to be distinguished by sound alone.