Brain electrical activity recorded thanks to Pink Floyd

TO like chords”Another brick in the wall part 1” from Pink Floyd were heard in a hospital room, neuroscientists at the Albany Medical Center in the United States diligently recorded the activity of electrodes placed in the brains of patients preparing for surgery. epilepsy.

Target? to capture electrical activity areas of the brain tuned to the attributes of music (pitch, rhythm, harmony, and words) to see if they can reconstruct what the patient heard.


More than a decade later, after a detailed analysis of data from 29 of these patients by neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley the answer is clearly yes. The phrase “it was just a brick in the wall” is expressed in a structured song in a recognizable way, its rhythms are preserved, and the words are muddy but legible. For the first time, researchers have reconstructed a recognizable song from brain recordings.

The reconstruction shows the ability to record and translate brain waves to capture the musical elements of speech, as well as syllables. In humans, these musical elements, called prosody (rhythm, stress, stress, and intonation), have a meaning that words alone do not convey.

Pink Floyd Brain
The reconstruction shows the ability to record and translate brain waves to capture the musical elements of speech, as well as syllables. (Berkeley)


Because these records electroencephalography (IEEG) can only be done from the surface of the brain, as close as possible to the auditory centers, no one will listen to songs in your head. short term. But for people who have trouble communicating due to a stroke or paralysis, such recordings from electrodes on the surface of the brain can help reproduce the musicality of speech lacking in today’s robotic reconstructions.

“This is a remarkable result,” said Robert Knight, the neuroscientist who conducted the study. “One of the things about music for me is that it has prosody and emotional content. As this whole field of brain-machine interfaces develops, you will have the opportunity to add musicality to future brain implants for people who need it, for people with ALS or for anyone else. neurological disorder or speech development disorder. It makes it possible to decode not only the linguistic content, but also part of the prosodic content of speech, part of the effect. I think that’s where we really started cracking the code.”


As brain recording techniques improve, perhaps one day this will be possible. records without opening the brain, possibly using sensitive electrodes attached to the scalp. Currently, a scalp EEG can measure brain activity to detect a single letter from a stream of letters, but it takes at least 20 seconds to identify a single letter. letter, which makes communication hard and difficult, Knight said.

The brain-machine interfaces used today to help people communicate when they can’t speak can decipher words, but the sentences created have a robotic quality similar to what the late Stephen Hawking said when he used a speech-generating device. voice.

“At that time, technologies it’s more like a keyboard for the mind,” said the author of the study. “You can’t read your mind from a keyboard. You will have to press buttons. And he speaks in a kind of robotic voice; I’m sure there’s less of what I call freedom of expression.” No.

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