I caught a fun Short Wave episode (NPR) recently and got to listen to how music sounds in other peoples’ brains. Yes, you read that correctly. The podcast played back recordings of brainwaves.
Episode guest, neuroscientist Nina Kraus, shared recordings of the EEG results of people listening to popular tunes.
Weirdly, the brainwaves actually sound like the songs being listened to by the subjects. Each recording is a little different, though, showing that we really do hear the same thing differently.
Like audio signals, brainwaves span a range of frequencies across time intervals. These brainwave signals get picked up on an EEG device. But unprocessed brainwaves just sound like a low rumble. Kraus and her team processed the results to study how people listen to music.
Kraus isn’t the first scientist to convert brainwaves to sound. Dr. Josef Parvizi at Stanford designed what could be called a brain stethoscope.
Parvizi’s invention enabled audio playback of EEG results. He learned that audio outperformed visual analysis for fast, accurate detection of seizures.
“After only 30 seconds of training,” Parvizi’s colleagues—medical and non-medical—”chose the correct answer about 95 percent of the time” by listening to clips of EEGs.
A team of Greek scientists recently developed a method to use EEG to tell how much a person likes a particular song.
It turns out what we’ve listened to in the past greatly influences how we experience sounds and songs. Kraus talks more about what makes us like or dislike music in her new book, Of Sound Mind.
Kraus has “invented new ways to measure the biology of sound processing in humans.” Her work helps to explain the importance of music for brain health.
Want to hear what brainwaves sound like? Take a listen!
Image credit: kimberrywood/Getty Images via NPR