Decoding music through cerebral activity?


Music is a universal language. The processing of musical information in the brain has long been a subject of scientific interest. A recent study reconstructed a song from the brain activity of patients...

Music comprises many elements, such as timbre, tone, melody, harmony, and rhythm. Scientists have been studying how these components are translated to the brain for decades. When a person listens to music, particular brain areas are activated, such as the primary and secondary auditory cortices, sensorimotor areas, inferior frontal gyrus, frontal lobe, and temporal lobe.

Researchers recently published a study in PLOS Biology in which they used stimulus reconstruction to study the spatiotemporal dynamics underlying the musical experience. Electrodes were implanted in the brains of 29 epileptic patients while they listened to a famous song: Another Brick In The Wall, by Pink Floyd. After decoding, the result was a sound that resembled the basic song. If you are curious, a recording is available with the publication!

These results represent a real breakthrough, as they were obtained by directly recording the activity of neurons. Potential applications are numerous, such as the improvement of tools that could benefit paralyzed people or patients suffering from pathologies limiting their ability to communicate.