Breaking News
December 14, 2017 - Living Lyme disease bacteria found months after antibiotic treatment
December 14, 2017 - These annual checkups help seniors not only survive but thrive
December 14, 2017 - Study reveals impact of diabetes during pregnancy on baby’s heart
December 14, 2017 - Huntington’s disease drug clears initial hurdles
December 14, 2017 - TPU researchers create 3D-printed models of children’s hearts
December 14, 2017 - Brain responses of children with inherited dyslexia risk predict their future reading speed
December 14, 2017 - Study: New Furosemide Formulation Simplifies Administration for HF
December 14, 2017 - Discrimination harms your health—and your partner’s
December 14, 2017 - Having older brothers may increase the likelihood of being gay
December 14, 2017 - New scientific yardstick released to help early detection of Alzheimer’s disease
December 14, 2017 - New finding demonstrates what happens at cellular level during onset of type2 diabetes
December 14, 2017 - Study identifies potassium as key to circadian rhythms in red blood cells
December 14, 2017 - NIH expected to award up to $70 million to launch Alzheimer’s Clinical Trials Consortium
December 14, 2017 - Pitting pathogens against each other could prevent drug resistance emerging
December 14, 2017 - Study provides new insights into development of Sonic Hedgehog medulloblastoma
December 14, 2017 - Dr. Reddy’s Announces Approval of Impoyz (clobetasol propionate) Cream for Plaque Psoriasis
December 14, 2017 - Gene Screens Can Alter Perception, Behavior
December 14, 2017 - Can Scrotal Vein Condition Hike Heart Risks?: MedlinePlus Health News
December 14, 2017 - Molecules in spit may be able to diagnose and predict length of concussions
December 14, 2017 - Children’s Colorado and RxRevu partner to help prescribers better meet needs of pediatric patients
December 14, 2017 - Researchers discover new way to attack drug-resistant prostate cancer cells
December 14, 2017 - Scientists develop new, high resolution method for identifying microbial species and strains
December 14, 2017 - Declining trend of salmonellosis cases has leveled off in the EU
December 14, 2017 - Death receptors in the blood can help measure risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes
December 14, 2017 - How to Perk Up the Holidays for Hospital Patients
December 14, 2017 - Prolonged Sedation May be Bad for Baby’s Brain
December 14, 2017 - The pediatric submersion score predicts children at low risk for injury following submersions
December 14, 2017 - Video game helps doctors to quickly recognize trauma patients who need high levels of care
December 14, 2017 - Younger persons newly-diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have poorer health than older patients
December 14, 2017 - Clinician re-examines evidence on re-use of catheters and UTIs in people with spinal cord injuries
December 14, 2017 - UK and Russian researchers join forces against AMR
December 14, 2017 - Results of Bariatric Surgery Hold Up Over Time
December 14, 2017 - High-intensity exercise delays Parkinson’s progression
December 14, 2017 - Protein structure could pave way for effective drugs to treat cystic fibrosis
December 14, 2017 - Minority people less likely to see dermatologist for psoriasis treatment
December 14, 2017 - Study indicates decline in use of chemotherapy for early stage breast cancer patients
December 14, 2017 - Chagas disease presents real public health problem to Canadians
December 14, 2017 - Experts call for rigorous clinical trials in use of experimental fetal therapy
December 14, 2017 - Lactic acid bacteria can offer protection against subtypes of influenza A virus
December 14, 2017 - Tapeworm drug could provide new hope for patients with Parkinson’s disease
December 14, 2017 - Parkinson’s progression delayed through high-intensity exercise, study says
December 14, 2017 - Researchers discover potential regulator essential for killer T cells to reside in tumors
December 14, 2017 - Tailor-made protein combats several kinds of pathogenic bacteria
December 14, 2017 - Hidden genes hold blueprints for designing new anti-cancer drugs
December 14, 2017 - Male virgins still at risk for acquiring HPV, study finds
December 14, 2017 - Study reveals novel molecular targets to improve chemotherapy’s efficiency against leukemia
December 14, 2017 - Talazoparib Significantly Extends Progression-Free Survival in Phase 3 EMBRACA Trial of Patients with Metastatic Breast Cancer
December 14, 2017 - AHA: Hospital QI Initiative Fails to Budge Outcomes in India
December 14, 2017 - Scientists observe tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease in fruit flies
December 14, 2017 - Newly discovered molecular chaperones may soon be part of therapies for Huntington’s disease
December 14, 2017 - Performing surgery on virtual patient could provide valuable insight into consequences
December 13, 2017 - New insights into mosquito sex protein could provide strategies to control diseases
December 13, 2017 - Lilly’s Taltz (ixekizumab) Receives U.S. FDA Approval for the Treatment of Active Psoriatic Arthritis
December 13, 2017 - Step Into Sunshine | Medpage Today
December 13, 2017 - Poor Prognosis for Diabetic Foot Sores: MedlinePlus Health News
December 13, 2017 - Exercise alone does not lead to weight loss in women—in the medium term
December 13, 2017 - Researchers use new approach to identify casual mechanisms in depression
December 13, 2017 - Genetic Analysis and Bio-Rad enter into supply and distribution agreement for GA-map clinical test
December 13, 2017 - Study finds barriers to stem cell transplant use among multiple myeloma patients from minority groups
December 13, 2017 - Scientists discover how axons in developing visual system stabilize their connections
December 13, 2017 - Novel compound inhibits mycomembrane biosynthesis and kills tuberculosis bacteria
December 13, 2017 - FDA Launches New Tool for Sharing Information That Allows Doctors to Better Manage Antibiotic Use
December 13, 2017 - Evolocumab Wins FDA Approval for Stand-Alone CVD Prevention
December 13, 2017 - Powerful Clot-Busting Drugs Not Useful After Leg Blockages: Study: MedlinePlus Health News
December 13, 2017 - The fight against obesity: To tax or not to tax?
December 13, 2017 - Isolation during holidays can impact health of seniors
December 13, 2017 - Specialized physiotherapy provides many benefits for patients with Parkinson’s disease
December 13, 2017 - Pairing immunotherapy drug with chemotherapy proves beneficial for relapsed acute myeloid leukemia
December 13, 2017 - Researchers find link between brain structure and hallucination proneness, musical aptitude
December 13, 2017 - Radiation responsive molecules derived from horse chestnuts aid cancer imaging
December 13, 2017 - New Gene Therapy May Be Cure for ‘Bubble Boy’ Disease
December 13, 2017 - MorningBreak: Insurance Driving Drug Prices? Crunch Time for ACA; The ‘Other’ Drug Problem
December 13, 2017 - Are Stents Really Useless After Chest Pain? Cardiologists Not Sure: MedlinePlus Health News
December 13, 2017 - Can you train yourself to develop ‘super senses’?
December 13, 2017 - Cellular self-digestion process plays role in development of autoimmune diseases
December 13, 2017 - E-cigarette use among youth leads to smoking as adults finds study
December 13, 2017 - New nanomaterial could enable new types of chemical processes in pharma, materials and chemical industries
December 13, 2017 - Another CGRP Drug Gains Ground in Migraine
December 13, 2017 - Trigger for most common form of vision loss discovered
December 13, 2017 - Study reveals link between estrogen and infertility
That music playing in your head is a real conundrum for scientists

That music playing in your head is a real conundrum for scientists

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
That music playing in your head is a real conundrum for scientists
Credit: iStock

Researchers at EPFL can now see what happens in our brains when we hear music in our heads. The researchers hope that in time their findings will be used to help people who have lost the ability to speak.

When we listen to music, different parts of our brain process different information – such as high and low frequencies – so that our auditory perception of the sounds matches what we hear. It’s easy to study the brain activity of someone who is listening to a song, for instance, as we have the technology to record and analyze the neural responses that each sound produces as it is heard. It’s much more complicated, however, to try and understand what happens in our brain when we hear music in our heads without any auditory stimulation. As with analyzing real music, the brain’s responses have to be linked to a given sound. But when the music is in our heads, that sound doesn’t actually exist – or at least our ears don’t hear it. Using a novel approach, researchers with EPFL’s Defitech Foundation Chair in Human-Machine Interface (CNBI) were able to analyze what happens in our brains when we hum in our heads.

Recording an imaginary sound

EPFL researchers, in cooperation with a team from the University of California, Berkeley, worked with an epileptic patient who is also an experienced pianist. Initially, the patient was asked to play a piece of music on an electric piano with the sound turned on. The music and the corresponding brain activity were recorded. The patient then replayed the same piece, but this time the researchers asked him to imagine hearing the music in his head with the sound on the piano turned off. Once again, the brain activity and the music were recorded. The difference this second time around was that the music came from the mental representation made by the patient – the notes themselves were inaudible. By gathering information in these two different ways, the researchers were able to determine the brain activity produced for each sound, and then compare the data.

That music playing in your head is a real conundrum for scientists
Experimental task design. (A) The participant played an electronic piano with the sound of the digital keyboard turned on (perception condition). (B) In the second condition, the participant played the piano with the sound turned off and instead imagined the corresponding music in his mind (imagery condition). In both conditions, the sound output of keyboard was recorded in synchrony with the neural signals.  Credit: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

The experiment may seem simple, but in fact it’s truly one of a kind. “The technique used – electrocorticography – is extremely invasive. It involves implanting electrodes quite deep inside the patient’s brain,” explains Stéphanie Martin, lead author of the study and a doctoral student with the CNBI. “The technique is normally used to treat people with epilepsy who cannot take medication.” That’s why the researchers worked with this patient in particular. The electrodes, in addition to being used for treatment purposes, can measure brain activity with a very high spatial and temporal resolution – a necessity given just how rapid neuron responses are.

Possible future language-related applications

This is the first time a study has demonstrated that when we imagine music in our heads, the auditory cortex and other parts of the brain process auditory information, such as high and low frequencies, in the same way as they do when stimulated by real sound. The findings have been published in the journal Cerebral Cortex. The researchers mapped out the parts of the brain covered by the electrodes based on their function in this process and their reactions to both audible and imaginary sounds. The scientists’ aim is to one day apply these findings to language, such as for people who have lost their ability to speak. “We are at the very early stages of this research. 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,” explains Martin. “This recording technique is invasive, and the technology needs to be more advanced for us to be able measure brain activity with greater accuracy.” While more research needs to be done, a first step for researchers will be to replicate these results with aphasia patients – people who have lost the ability to speak – and determine whether the sounds they imagine can be recreated. The researchers hope their findings will eventually help such individuals speak again by ‘reading’ their internal speech and reproducing it vocally.


Explore further:
Predicting when a sound will occur relies on the brain’s motor system

More information:
Stephanie Martin et al. Neural Encoding of Auditory Features during Music Perception and Imagery: Insight into the Brain of a Piano Player, Cerebral Cortex (2017). DOI: 10.1101/106617

Journal reference:
Cerebral Cortex

Provided by:
Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles