Monday, October 10, 2005

brain music

this story, printed in today's indy star but originally printed a week ago in the record, reads a bit like a press release. but you might want to read it if you're interested in the sonification of data (translating raw data into sound; so closely tied to audio databending that some people actually think of them as the same thing, though as i've demonstrated not all databending involves sonification).

On her compact disc, the music of Jennifer Depaws' mind sounds like a determined child plunking methodically away at a piano lesson.

Depaws, 22, is a dancer, not a pianist. Nor is she a composer; but her mind is filled with soundless, endless melodies that move her. She can't sing or hum the tunes going through her head.

She never even heard them until undergoing a novel treatment for stress and insomnia called "brain-music therapy."

In one brief session, Dr. Galina Mindlin, a New York psychiatrist, recorded Depaws' brain waves and converted them to mood-altering musical notes, which were later transferred to a CD.

The idea is that the music so complements Depaws' basic mental state that she can listen to the CD to calm herself down when she is anxious or to get going when she needs energizing.

Neither New Age nor white noise, brain-music therapy is similar to biofeedback but quicker and "more complex," said Mindlin, who has treated 300 patients with the technique.

i guess the idea is that the doctors sonify the brainwaves of patients when those patients are in certain mental states. then, theoretically, listening to those recordings then causes the patient to enter that corresponding mindstate. presumably this only works for the patient whose brainwaves generated the recording—if i listen to your brain cd, it wouldn't have the same effect on me as it would on you.

Brain-music therapy was developed in 1991 by a physician at the Moscow Medical Academy. Mindlin, 46, was born and trained in Russia. Besides her private practice, she teaches at Columbia University and is supervising attending physician in psychiatry at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital at Columbia.

Though software exists to make brain waves sound like any number of 120 different instruments, Mindlin programs them to sound like a piano.

but is this significant? did dr mindlin (note the name mindlin... almost like it's from a golden-age superman comic) pick piano for a scientific reason, or because she just likes piano? would it work if you used trombone? does the method of sonification matter? or i guess what i really want to know is... if i sonified my brainwaves using databending techniques (namely converting the data directly to audio using a wav editor), would listening to those recordings re-create my original mindstate?

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