Photo: Norbert Millauer/AFP/Getty Images
Swiss Scientists Probe The Inner Hearing Of The Brain
Neuroscientists at Swiss EPFL and University of California, Berkeley have undertaken a first-of-its-kind experiment: The researchers paired invasive sensors with an epileptic pianist to map the inner brain activity that accompanies listening to music.
Score one for the reality of having a creative inner life.
The pianist performed a piece twice on an electric piano, once with the sound turned on and then again with the sound turned off. Although the researchers requested he imagine what the piece sounded like, it is hard to imagine how else an experienced pianist would perform a well-known selection. The odd but strangely predictable observation was that inner neurons fire — including for high and low frequencies — the same way they respond to sound vibrating the ear drum.
In other words, you are really hearing the music inside your head.
The study's findings have been published in the scientific journal Cerebral Cortex, and the scientists' goal is to apply them to help people who have lost their speech ability to speak again by "reading" their internal speech and reproducing it vocally. "We are at the very early stages of this research," said Stéphanie Martin, lead author of the study. "Language is a much more complicated system than music: linguistic information is non-universal, which means it is processed by the brain in a number of stages."