Tuesday, May 05, 2009

"I Bring You The Future" - BrainJacking

Brainjacking, a more Gibsonesque name for neuroimaging, is where you put on one of those rubber brain hats and analyse EEG readouts to tell what's going on inside your noodle. There has been a lot of post on various blogs about brain and sound related issues. There seems to be a greater interest in what's going inside the mind when listening. Books like Oliver Sacks "Musicophilia" or David Levitins "This Is Your Brain On Music" have possibly sparked a general interest in studies of the brain and sound/music. More awareness of people with synaethesia or amusia or other unusual wiring's of the auditory mind underscore the fact that, much like beauty, music is in the ear of the beholder.

So what has this to do with synths and all things R2D2.  Well, scientists from Maastricht University have developed a method to look into the brain of a person and read out who has spoken to him or her and what was said. 1 "We have [created] a sort of speech-recognition device which is completely based on the brain activity of the listener," explained Elia Formisano of Maastricht University, who led the group. 2 Well that's pretty cool. They can literally read your mind and get a computer to speak it back. Brain voice recognition and speech synthesis all in one. 

Not only that, we have new breakthroughs in laser controlled humans. Flash's of light can be used to trigger specific sets of neurons in the brain. "The beauty of this optogenetic technique is its specificity. By using a combination of lasers and genetic engineering, scientists can control, to the millisecond, the firing of a specific class of neurons, allowing them to pinpoint problematic cells and circuits while leaving innocent bystanders alone, thus minimizing potential side effects." While of course this is all for medicinal purposes it does make me wonder if you could fire off the parts of the brain for music, rhythm, speech etc...

In my rambling sci-fi addled mind I put the two studies together and thought of people storing their musical brain patterning to computer and then allowing others to laser that track directly to their brains. Musicians will be those who can most coherently keep a piece of music directly in focus for a sustained period of time... or enough time for the rubber brain hat to do its thing.

Of course I couldn't end the post without a bit of cynicism (wouldn't be much of a sci-fi story without the dystopia at the end). Google, among others, are using brainscanning techniques to see if they can design better marketing campaigns. 1 Other groups, such as Neuro Focus, are going whole hog into "Neuro-Marketing" analysing the brains response to an advertisment, measuring levels of attentiveness, emotional engagement, response to repeat viewing. 2 Are the paranoiacs right... is it finally time to start wearing tinfoil hats?


2BiT said...

Did ya read about the guys at MIT that did a study into tinfoil hats and concluded that they actually *amplified* certain frequencies? Specifically ones reserved for use by the US government!


Good science!

AudioLemon said...

ya... it's the link at the bottom ;)

He does some other things. He uses EEG's to write his Twitter posts. I couldn't find a direct link so I just put up the tinfoil hat link instead.

2BiT said...

:D ya think i have time to click on every link you post?
Doh! of course I do...my bad ;)

Well more pertinently how about the premiere of the Brain Orchestra: