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Dementia, functional MRI, Schizophrenia

Symphonies of the Brain

Supporting Publication: Mind as Music

The field of cognitive neuroscience seeks to interpret and understand the intricate processes by which the human brain functions. Just as your Mac or PC runs on it’s respective operating system, it is believed that our brains function within the guidelines designated by a specific neural code. However, before we can successfully understand the operations of the brain as one system, we must first identify the individual functions of localized areas i.e. the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, et cetera. There have been tremendous efforts in understanding functions of individual regions but there is still little understanding of whether these regions activate and work in a defined order that can be characterized syntactically.

Many people believe that the syntax of the brain is too complex for our present technology and understanding but Dan Lloyd, of Trinity College, has a bone to pick with those folks. Lloyd, using tools from cognitive musicology, has attempted to characterize the brain as a dynamical system by converting functional MRI (fMRI) scans into musical notes that vary by dynamic and frequency.

With fMRI, one can observe the times at which different areas of the brain are active. Lloyd created a program that orchestrates the brain’s activity by assigning different frequencies to the areas of the brain used, correlating the intensity of usage with the volume.

Lloyd recruited three different types of subjects; normal subjects in good mental health, subjects with schizophrenia and also subjects with dementia. All subjects were placed in an MRI and their brain activity was monitored while they were asked to do tasks that ranged from playing a driving video game to being completely at rest.

Lloyd identified the portions of the brain that were active and translated the activity into frequencies, pitches and volume. The end results were quite amazing, as you can see by watching the youtube videos. The healthy active mind seems to create smooth melodies while the subjects with schizophrenia and dementia produced “unsteady rhythms and cadences” with their brain music.

By contrasting the music between different subjects, we can clearly identify that there are indeed irregular brain patterns associated with subjects that have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and dementia. The concept of identifying irregular brain patterns through music is very exciting because the “symphonies” created by the brain could help pinpoint the specific areas associated with mental disorders, something that is not currently possible through visual MRI analyses.



Mind as Music
Brain Waves and Beautiful Music


About bdklassen

My interest in psychology and neuroscience has brought me to the blogging world where I hope to share some of the awesome science research that major news sources such as CNN and ABC News often overlook.


2 thoughts on “Symphonies of the Brain

  1. That research is very incredible, years ago I never would have imagined this stuff being computed. Have you seen this?

    Posted by jldelaney | December 20, 2011, 3:59 pm

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