A version of a classic Pink Floyd track has been made from brain activity recorded while people listened to the song.
Scientists say the state-of-the-art technique used to make the most far-out “remix” yet of Another Brick in the Wall also identified a new brain region necessary for perceiving musical rhythm.
And they say their findings, published in the journal PLOS Biology, could be beneficial for the development of higher-quality prosthetic limbs.
The phrase “All in all it was just a brick in the wall” comes through recognizably in the reconstructed song.
Scientists say the reconstruction shows the feasibility of recording and translating brain waves to capture the musical elements of speech, as well as the syllables.
They explained that, in humans, the musical elements, called “prosody” – rhythm, stress, accent and intonation – carry meaning that the words alone do not convey.
The ground-breaking work was conducted by an American team at the University of California, Berkeley, led by senior computational research scientist Doctor Ludovic Bellier.
They said their findings have added “another brick in the wall of our understanding of music processing in the human brain.”
Dr. Bellier explained how they used nonlinear modeling to decode brain activity and reconstruct the seminal track first released in 1979 before going to top the charts around the world.
He says the encoding models revealed a new cortical subregion in the temporal lobe that underlies rhythm perception, which could be exploited by future brain-machine interfaces.
Dr. Bellier said: “These findings could have implications for brain-machine-interfaces, such as prosthetic devices that help improve the perception of prosody, the rhythm and melody of speech.”
Because the intracranial electroencephalography (iEEG) recordings can be made only from the surface of the brain – as close as you can get to the auditory centres – no-one will be eavesdropping on the songs in your head anytime soon.
But the team said that for people who have trouble communicating, whether because of stroke or paralysis, such recordings from electrodes on the brain surface could help reproduce the musicality of speech that’s missing from today’s robot-like reconstructions.
Neurologist Professor Robert Knight, who conducted the study with Dr. Bellier, said: “It’s a wonderful result.
In 2012, Knight and his colleagues were the first to reconstruct the words a person was hearing from recordings of brain activity alone.
For the new study, Dr. Bellier reanalyzed brain recordings obtained in 2012 and 2013 as volunteers were played a three-minute segment of the Pink Floyd song.
The researchers also confirmed that the right side of the brain is more attuned to music than the left side.
“So here we confirm that that’s not just a speech-specific thing, but that it’s more fundamental to the auditory system and the way it processes both speech and music.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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