Human Harmonicity

Illustration of the score of EEG-fMRI music (Printed by Sibelius 4.0).
(a) Score of brain music of Subject A, (b) score of brain music of Subject B.

These two items seem to me to belong together: A study showing that the human brain is wired for harmonicity, and the translation of brain signals into music.

First, from ScienceNOW:

“Since the days of the ancient Greeks, scientists have wondered why the ear prefers harmony. Now, scientists suggest that the reason may go deeper than an aversion to the way clashing notes abrade auditory nerves; instead, it may lie in the very structure of the ear and brain, which are designed to respond to the elegantly spaced structure of a harmonious sound.

“Sensitivity to harmonicity is important in everyday life, not just in music,” noted researchers. For example, the ability to detect harmonic components of sound allows people to identify different vowel sounds, and to concentrate on one conversation in a noisy crowd. Because amusics don’t have problems with these tasks, even though they can’t distinguish consonance, further investigation of subjects with the condition should provide valuable information of the role of harmonicity in communication and perception, Demany says.”

A team led by neuroscientists Jing Lu and Dezhong Yao of China’s University of Electronic Science and Technology write:

“Music and language define us as human. Emotional expression and communication, through language or non-linguistic artistic expression, are recognized as being strongly linked to health and sense of well-being. Therefore, as an artistic expression, music may represent human mind or mood.

“We hope the on-going progresses of the brain signals-based music will properly unravel part of the truth in the brain.” In the new study, they added blood flow measurements from an fMRI machine to the mix. Combining EEG and fMRI allowed pitch and intensity to operate independently, a baseline distinction separating noise from music. To demonstrate, Lu and Yao recorded the brains of a 14-year-old girl and 31-year-old woman at rest.

Audio of the music above can be heard at WiredScience here.

So, we are programmed to seek harmonicity and our brains make music of their own. I like the sound of that tune.

Scale-Free Brain-Wave Music from Simultaneously EEG and fMRI Recordings