UPDATE 2: I'm going to continue this discussion and have the Synchrony team join in a Kickstarter Live stream - Jul 2 at 12:00pm EDT. We will demonstrate Synchrony live, explain the approach to visualization and also stream it to Facebook! Please join us. I'll answer more of your AMA questions this weekend too! UPDATE 1: I'm going to have to sign off for now. This has been an incredible experience. I wish I could have gotten to everybody's questions. I'll check the rules, if I can take this AMA live again tomorrow or Saturday, I will. Please check our YouTube page for Synchrony LEDs: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsBhYkB4Nkb5T96CF9Pkk-Q and our Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1151491590/synchronytm-the-worlds-first-intelligent-led-contr. You can read more about the science here: http://musicdynamicslab.uconn.edu. Thanks Reddit!

Dr. Edward Large directs the Music Dynamics Laboratory at University of Connecticut, where he is a Professor of Psychological Sciences and Professor of Physics. He is Associate Editor at the journals Frontiers in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience and Music Perception, and he recently completed a three year term as President of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition. He and his colleagues pioneered the idea that attention is a dynamic, and inherently rhythmic process. He has applied these ideas to explain the rhythmic structure of music, and its interaction with brain dynamics. His research areas include nonlinear dynamical systems, auditory neuroscience, and music psychology. He uses theoretical modeling in conjunction with behavioral, comparative, neurophysiological and neuroimaging techniques to understand how people respond to complex, temporally structured sequences of sound such as music and speech.

My Proof: http://musicdynamicslab.uconn.edu/home/dr-edward-large/

Comments: 227 • Responses: 65  • Date: 

Yajirobe40457 karma

Why does music have such an effect on humans? It's a human invention (not something that occurs in nature) and yet we are so fond of it.

edlarge371 karma

That's a great question. Recently we scientists have spent a lot of time researching exactly the question of the "musicality" of animals. You may have seen Snowball the dancing parrot, or Ronan the head-bobbing sea lion on You Tube. These animals appear to "get" the rhythm of music the way people do. More specifically, they can hear the beat in complex musical rhythms, like we do.

Also, the natural behavior of some animals, like rhythmic drumming of bonobos and the duetting of gibbons might be closely related to human musical behavior.

However, I do agree with you that music -- as we normally think of it --- is a human invention. Or perhaps not so much an invention as a discovery about the fundamental nature of how the brain responds to sound. That is where the theory of synchrony of neural oscillations comes in.

Our cortical simulations, essentially explain how people heat the beat in complex rhythms. Let's see if I can embed a link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJPBayI9x9k. However, at a faster time scale, we believe this theory will also explain the perception of pitch, consonance and dissonance, and tonality (perception of notes in a melody as stable or unstable). We have a number of papers on tonality already, and we are currently working on pitch and consonance.

GodMonster5 karma

That video that you posted is awesome. I've been researching applications of GPUs to break down segments of sound via a real-time waterfall plot like that showed in order to optimize bandwidth over sound quality down to a certain threshold, while committing a stream at a stable high bit-rate to a local source for upload and synchronization after the fact in order to implement long range musical and audio collaborations with minimal perceived latency. I'm hoping to find a way to piggy-back sound processing on DirectX to process "blocks" of sound in parallel. It could also be a really interesting way to use local GPUs to process VSTs in real time similar to the way Pro Tools HD uses dedicated RTAS processors.

Edit: Maybe you can answer a question that I've had but haven't been able to find any published answers. What would you estimate is the minimum latency detectable by the average human ear? Does this number go down significantly for a classically trained musician, how about for a jazz musician well versed in improvisation?

edlarge31 karma

A few milliseconds. And we can detect deviations of about 2% in the tempo of a periodic pulse train. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00. Log on if you can and ask this question live. And see synchrony in action!

Alan_Smithee_2 karma

Very ancient, and apparently hard-coded. Babies react to it, naturally, from a very young age. Or so I gather. Is there any evidence to support this?

edlarge32 karma

Thanks for joining. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see it in action!

AngeloSantelli8 karma

Birdsong? That occurs in nature

edlarge34 karma

Of course!

Natertot0143 karma

Does listening to Mozart really make you smarter?

edlarge387 karma

Hi everyone, I don't think I realized the AMA was going live immediately. Does making music make you smarter? No, not really. The Mozart effect was reported early on and gained a lot of media attention, but no one could replicate it. More recently there have been some studies that have correlated increased performance in certain kinds of tasks by people who study music. And of course, there are therapeutic applications of music.

eqleriq60 karma

I don't think I realized

confirmed brain guy

edlarge37 karma

OK, you got me. Hopefully that confirms my identity too ...

MizzerC25 karma

Have you heard of and done any research into ASMR?

edlarge321 karma

Do you mean Autonomous sensory meridian response? I don't know of any research, but it is a fairly recent topic, and one not directly related to my research, so there may be something out there.

ponziunit20 karma

This is difficult to ask questions about. Seems like everyone has their own personal soundtrack list for motivation & relaxation.

I prefer radio stations that are theme based. Popular stations can alternate between aggressive beats and calming rhythms and when they play a song I wasn't 'in the mood for' I'm often quickly changing the channel even if it is a song I've enjoyed before.

I guess my question is this: how long does it take to change the mood by changing the tune?

edlarge335 karma

I agree, everyone has their own musical preference! "how long does it take to change the mood by changing the tune?" I'm going to guess you mean how long does it take to change a person's mood by playing a specific kind of music. Is that right?

If that's what you mean, I think it all depends on whether or not the person is open to having his/her mood changed. We do experiments all the time in the perception of emotion -- and mood is understood by psychologists and neuroscientists as being the same sort of thing as emotion, but it just happens on a longer time scale And emotional experience is relatively short, whereas a mood can last days.

Anyway, imagine you just broke up with your lover, and you are in one of our experiments. You are horribly depressed, but I play you some music and ask whether its happy or sad. You can tell that it's happy, but it doesn't actually make you happy, you are still depressed.

But at other times, listening to happy music can actually change you mood. It is all about the interaction between the music and the intrinsic dynamics of your brain. It is going to take us a long time to sort that out scientifically.

aburgerkingbathroom13 karma

tell us about this new way to visualize music? what applications does it have? is it something we could reproduce on our computers?

"attention is a dynamic, and inherently rhythmic process" - how can rhythm (in music or not) be used to manipulate attention? considering it, i can certainly see that rhythmic speech patterns capture people's attention. but 'attention' in the ADHD sense - can rhythm be used to significantly increase focus or something along those lines?

what was your favorite music in high school and undergrad?

edlarge322 karma

I have created a neural network that simulates the response to music that we can measure in auditory cortex. We visualize this response using LED lights. Yes, you could use this algorithm to visualize music on your computer screen as well. Basically, you can see a representation of what happens in your brain, in real time when you listen to music. Here is an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YIjOn-WYvM. First you can see the LED's responding to the voices, then the 6/8 meter, then the music changes to 4/4. For the first two measures the LEDs get the beat in the wrong place (as I think most people would in this music) then they finally get 4/4.

edlarge312 karma

So the rhythmic aspect of attention I refer to in my bio a scientific finding in which things that happen when you expect them to are perceived more accurately. This is a lower level kind of attention that what we think of when we think of ADHD. Research is currently underway to determine whether exercising the temporal form of attention can increase people's attentional focus in general focus.

edlarge315 karma

In high school I listened to rock. In college I played in a bluegrass band, and studied classical guitar performance. Now I'm a big fan of jazz.

APyritesApatite1 karma

Experiment idea: Train a nn with various brains and musical markers, train it to re-audiolize the visualization, making a utility where people can make music by imagining a tune.

edlarge31 karma

Very cool idea! There are people starting to look at that!

We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see Synchrony in action!

ChairfaceChip11 karma

Are you aware of any evidence that auditory brainwave entrainment might result in an irregular heartbeat (not necessarily the medical definition of irregular, but clustering of skipped beats)?

edlarge312 karma

I am not aware of any evidence. Are you?

itshappening997 karma

Why do you think music preference is so strongly linked to adolescence? In other words, why do many people tend to enjoy the music they were into during high school for the rest of their lives, and often not appreciate newer music?

edlarge37 karma

That is an amazing question. And the answer is that I don't know. But it is a real phenomenon. Many theories have been advanced. One is that music evolved as a sort of fitness display and is therefore linked to reproduction. But I'm skeptical of that one. We do know that there is a sensitive period during childhood when it is best to acquire language, so it may also be related to that kind of phenomenon. We need more research in this area!

itshappening992 karma

Thank you for the answer. My personal unscientific theory is that something similar to Pavlovian conditioning is going on, where instead of a sound forming a link with hunger, music preference somehow gets linked to whatever hormonal tsunami people go through at that age.

edlarge31 karma

Thanks for joining. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see it in action!

The_Windup_Girl_7 karma

I know that music tends to help us remember things, for example companies using jingles to help you remember their product, but is it the melody or the rhythm, or something else entirely, that is responsible for this? Thanks for your time by the way, fascinating topic. Cello and piano player here =)

edlarge38 karma

Good question. Believe it or not, music and memory is not as widely investigated as it should be. We do know that music, and especially rhythm helps people to remember things. There is plenty of evidence about that. The mechanism is not yet clear, however. But I would point out that the hippocampus, which is critical in memory formation, works on theta oscillations. Many researchers do invasive experiments on rats and measure the behavior of hippocampal theta oscillations while they try to learn a maze for example. Someday, hopefully, we will understand how this relates to memorizing linguistic information using rhythm and music.

YaaDig7 karma

Why is a high pitch ring so annoying? What would my brain look like if I was used in your visualization to see why my tinnitus is so annoying? I love rain sounds and white noise it calms me down is there any other sounds or music you would recommend?

edlarge38 karma

So you have tinnitus? Unfortunately, this happens to many people and is so annoying that it has literally led some to suicide. I'm afraid I can't answer as to why that sensation is annoying, but it may be that the phantom sound experienced by tinnitus sufferers is treated as a real sound by the brain, so serves to orient attention. Unfortunately there is no known cure for tinnitus, but for tonal tinnitus really any sound helps. White noise is good. Also, some audiologists report temporary relief by playing real sounds whose frequency is near the frequency of the phantom sound. There are some apps out there that trey to choose music for you based on the frequency of your tinnitus. I can't remember the names in real time, but if you contact me off-line, I can try to find them for you.

YaaDig1 karma

Thank you! Yes I've had it ever since I got my appendix removed which is odd. And I use an app already it helps me quiet a bit. I've tried all kinds of medication. I even did hyperbaric oxygen chamber therapy which helped me get over my claustrophobia to an extent. But I bet you would be most interested in the hearing aid like device I use to wear that masked the sound using white noise and some tones in kind of a song like pattern. It is supposed to help someone habitualize to their tinnitus faster. Could sound therapy really change your brain instead if masking the sound?

hollycatrawr5 karma

There is a connection between tinnitus and anesthesia, so it would likely the anesthesia that did it. People come out with all sorts of odd sensory changes -some have an altered sense of taste/smell.

Its interesting because people often hear ringing in their ears before passing out, some also have tinnitus after drug overdoses. There appears to be some connection to the state of unconsciousness. There don't seem to be any large scale studies though.

YaaDig2 karma

I've herd about that before. I've seen 3 ENT's and a neurologist for answers and had my brain MRI'ed twice. I thought it could have been from ototoxicity from either too much Dilaudid or antibiotic. Then there's the anesthesia so I really still don't know the culprit of its cause. I have no hearing loss either. Knowing what caused it would be nice but curing it would be just simply amazing I would probably cry with happiness for days. Interesting side not the MRI revealed a systemic Loop around one of my cranial nerves that's probably been there my whole life but could cause major problems. I thought that could be why I have Tinnitus but it's not according to the neurologist. They can cause severe uncontrollable pain on the face though. I don't have that yay :)

edlarge32 karma

There are many causes of tinnitus. But the most effective therapy I am aware of is to mask or suppress the phantom sound with other sounds. But if you do this for long enough, it could -- theoretically -- change your brain's response to sound. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 EST. Log on if you can and ask this question live. And see Synchrony in action!

xyifer124 karma

In a person who was born deaf, is the brain's rhythm any different from normal?

edlarge36 karma

Wow. Reddit people ask great questions! I have not seen any research that asks that question directly. We do know that in congenitally deaf individuals auditory cortex may be recruited in the service of vision and other things. However, it is not clear whether this changes the rhythms in that part of cortex. We do think that our LED visualizations may be interesting for deaf and hard of hearing people as an alternative way to experience music, and we are doing outreach to the deaf community. Take a look at this video, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bJdwl9x2ao.

edlarge32 karma

We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00. Log on if you can and ask this question live. And see Synchrony in action!

justalemontree4 karma

Why do some people have perfect pitch?

edlarge32 karma

I wish I knew. From a neuroscientific perspective, I think that the most interesting question is why doesn't everyone have perfect pitch (we call it absolute pitch, by the way). In your brain their are spatial maps of frequency ... the same frequency will always activate the same neurons. So ... why don't we all have absolute pitch? Instead most people have relative pitch, but as far as I am aware, no one has ever found a map pf relative pitch. That's the real mystery to me.

Anyway, some people have argued that absolute pitch is learned. It is true, for example, that tone-language speakers (for example, Mandarin) have a higher rate of absolute pitch that non tone language speakers (for example, English). We are still in the early stages of understanding the brain mechanisms behind this.

My friend Dan Levitin has shown that the average person has something like absolute pitch and absolute rhythm as well. If you bring someone into the lab and ask them to hum their favorite song, most people get darn close in pitch and tempo.

sleepymuse3 karma

I've had this debate with some people; I study music theory as a hobby, and I think that all music stems from some objective fundamentals that have to do with how the brain perceives sound. The opposing argument is that music is largely a cultural thing and that musical tastes and patterns have more to do with the time period we live in than physical principles. In your experience, what side do you identify with?

Thanks for doing this!!!!! Really cool stuff

edlarge35 karma

I'm firmly on your side on this one. But many of my colleagues believe it is ALL learned and cultural.

I think that once you understand the predictions of neural dynamics, you see that there are fundamental neural processes -- like the way nonlinear oscillations respond to rhythms -- that do an astonishingly good job of predicting human neural and perceptual responses. And if you check out the visualizations on our YouTube page, you can literally see for yourself how well our neural networks "get" the rhythm. For example, check out the response to this sax solo by Alex Blade Silver of the Civilians. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcU_2hv_wok It starts out responding on 1 and 3 , but when Alex emphasizes a faster metrical level, it goes to the faster level (every quarter note). And when his rhythm slows, the LEDs get that too. It does all this without any learning.

But ... I wouldn't try to argue that learning isn't important. It is! There is a critical contribution of the musical culture and style learning. In fact, our theory includes a learning component, and our research now focuses heavily on learning.

These ideas apply not only to rhythm, but also to pitch consonance/dissonance and tonality, as I mentioned in an answer above. Check out our publications page top read about it: http://musicdynamicslab.uconn.edu/publications/

sleepymuse1 karma

Ahhh that's awesome! Thanks!!! Definitely checking it out.

edlarge32 karma

Thanks! We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see it in action!

Tanthor3 karma

A little off topic but, after listening to very strong, droning rhythms my head/brain feel like they do this "pulsing" thing in time with the rhythm for minutes after it ends. Any idea what's up with that?

edlarge36 karma

There has not been much empirical research on the experience you describe. But neural oscillations have a life of their own, so once they synchronize to a strong beat with a specific frequency, they can (at least in theory) continue to produce that frequency indefinitely.

boioing3 karma

Interesting idea. I'm curious - on what time scale are the oscillation events that you're studying? Are they "rhythmic" on the millisecond scale, for example, or at longer, "musical" intervals, say, 0.1 sec -5 sec?

On another note, does singing "I've been working on the railroad" while working on the railroad, and pounding the nails to the beat, have any benefits?

edlarge311 karma

Neural population rhythms—or oscillations—are cyclical fluctuations of baseline neuronal activity that can be observed in neocortical and thalamic regions of the brain. Thalamocortical oscillations exhibit peaks in specific frequency bands, called delta (1–4 Hz), theta (4–8Hz), beta (13–30 Hz), and gamma (30–70 Hz) (Buzsáki, 2006). The frequency range of the musical beat corresponds nicely with the delta band, while faster metrical frequencies fall within the theta band,and slower metrical frequencies occupy the sub-delta range. Musical rhythms entrain these rhythms. Also, fluctuations in the power of beta and gamma oscillations time lock to acoustic rhythms.

Work songs are thought to be useful for coordinating physical the efforts of large groups of people.

boioing1 karma


edlarge31 karma

Thanks for joining. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook.

jwill6533 karma

What is it about music that gives us humans pleasure?

edlarge37 karma

That question is both easy and impossible answer. The most recent research out of the Zatorre lab at Montreal Neurological Institute indicates that intense pleasure in response to music can lead to dopamine release in the striatal system.

The more difficult question is why does this happen. There are many theories about this. One is that music engages our expectations. The idea here is that the brain's job is to predict the future, and the better our predictions the more the brain rewards us. But the questions here are significant: Why does music that we know by heart still give us chills? How exactly does the process work. This is a fundamental question in the neuroscience of music field, and we will working on this for years to come!

Poopnuggetshnitzel3 karma

What are the effects, if any, of listening to the same songs over and over again versus listening to new music for somebody with depression (or anyone, really)? Perhaps this is too specific a question, but one of the ways I manage my depressive symptoms is by engaging myself in music that I have never heard before as a way to help my brain not get so entrenched in its own patterns. When I hear a song I've been listening to for years, it does not have the same effect as the first time I've listened to it, even if I still enjoy the song. I've recently been exploring genres that I used to have no interest in as a way to teach myself to be open to new ideas, new patterns, new melodies, and thus helps open myself up to new experiences in general which is something difficult to accomplish with depression.

So to rephrase my question: Can listening to new, unfamiliar music have a significant effect on our cognition?

edlarge33 karma

That is an excellent question, and one I've never been asked before. I also don't know of any research on this question. However, your approach of seeking new experiences sounds interesting to me!

Aeium3 karma

Do you think that neurons responsible for this sort of response from sound are involved with the sensation of consciousness?

Are the same brain areas involved with the creation and perception of music, or are different regions involved?

edlarge310 karma

Great question! You are referring to the well-respected scientific theory that synchrony of neuronal oscillations is responsible for our unified experience of consciousness. The idea behind that theory is that neurons communicate only when they are synchronized, so this phenomena literally allows different parts of the brain to communicate with one another (or not) depending on what you are doing at the time.

I believe this is related to neural entrainment to musical and speech rhythms in the following way. Imagine there are two brains instead of one. How would they communicate? By synchronizing oscillations. But how would they do that? With sound. So I believe musical communication and speech communication are essentially ways of synchronizing multiple brains so we can communicate.

There is plenty of evidence that people who merely synchronize body movements 1) like each other more and 2) are more likely to cooperate with one another. There is also direct evidence of inter-brain synchronization between musician using electroencephalograph (EEG).

Emmmmmmmmm3 karma

Would you please recommend a resource which will explain your field, perhaps as differentiated from cognitive science? Something understandable to someone with a BS in a STEM field unrelated to theoretical neuroscience, who may be interested in changing fields?

edlarge31 karma

A really nice book just can out called the Routlegde Companion of Music Cognition by Ashley and Timmers. I think that will be what you are looking for.

Also, we are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see it in action!

YoureGratefulDead2Me2 karma

What kind of music do you listen to? Is it difficult for you to enjoy music the way everyone else does because you've analyzed its effects so much?

Unrelated question: In your opinion, where do you see artificial intelligence realistically getting to in 20 years? Could artificially intelligent beings enjoy music the way we do?

edlarge35 karma

I listen to all kinds of music. I honestly don't remember how I used to listen to music, but I think I actually enjoy it more because I work so much with music. In fact in one study, we found evidence that people with moderate experience making music have greater activation in neural pleasure centers than people with little or no experience.

mackedeli2 karma

Where would you hide 1,000,000 dollars cash if you absolutely had to?

edlarge32 karma

I don't know. Maybe I'd bury it?

Fuck_Cilantro2 karma

A friends wife is a RN but she also sells Neurofeedback therapy. Supposedly there are benefits to hooking yourself up to this program and listening to music. The hook is you can train your brain to act differently just by listening to their stuff.

Any merit to that?

edlarge32 karma

Neurofeedback can be effective, and in fact one of my current students is very interested in it. We were just speculating about whether the music-synchronized LEDs might help make neuroffedback more effective.

Fuck_Cilantro1 karma

Do you have any peer reviewed studies you recommend about that? It sounds interesting but feels like the magnet wristband gimmick.

edlarge31 karma

It's not my area, but I'll ask my student to recommend some reading. Thanks for joining. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see it in action!

Snackleton2 karma

Do you know if pop music producers or other people involved in the industry use this type of science to craft songs, sign artists, or any other purposes?

edlarge32 karma

I actually don't. Maybe my friend Dan Levitin does, I'll have to ask him. It would be interesting to try. One thing you see when you look at our LED visualization is that for simple music, you basically just get the beat. But when you use rhythmically complex music, you see all the crazy rhythmic changes, and you can even witness rhythmic ambiguity ... like in the Civilians video I posted above ... when the music transitions from 6/8 to 4/4, it takes about 2 measures for the lights to start getting 4/4, and in the mean time, they are perceiving stress in the wrong places. So in a way, you are seeing a scientific prediction of what people will perceive when they hear that music.

Op3No62 karma

We perceive the higher pitches of the Hertz spectrum as enhancers of tone quality.

Do you know if visual light works similarly? At the fringes of the visible spectrum, do these frequencies enhance or "saturate" colors we perceive? I know visual neurology isn't your field of expertise, but I was wondering if you had any insight?

edlarge32 karma

Our perception of tone quality is absolutely affected by the higher frequency parts of the spectrum. These aspects of sound are (in addition to the onsets) the reason we can tell a piano from a trumpet. And, yes, I think preserving the higher parts of the frequency spectrum enhances the experience of the sound overall.

Op3No61 karma

I meant to ask whether visual light works similarly to sound in that the higher frequencies near the fringe of the visible spectrum saturate colors we see.

edlarge31 karma

Thanks for joining and re-asking the question. In that respect, light and sound are treated differently by the nervous system ...

We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see it in action!

liquidsmk2 karma

Is it normal to persistently have music in your head? From the moment you wake till the moment you sleep, a constant never ending stream of music that never takes a break ?

edlarge32 karma

Hmm. Normal, huh? An 'earworm' is music that gets stuck in our heads and it a phenomenon that we all experience from time to time. But I don't think most people experience music constantly. I would refer you to the book musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. In it he shares stories and insights into such phenomena from the point of view of a practicing neurologist. Highly recommended!

liquidsmk2 karma

Hmm. Normal, huh?

Not sure I understand this part of your comment.

But yes. This is a constant thing for me for as long as I can remember.

I understand what earworms are. And from what I’ve seen most people who say they have an earworm, it’s usually a catchy tune that they can’t remove from their head.

I get those too where a particular song will stay around longer than you want.

But in my case. I can switch the songs at will to any song I want. I just can’t turn off the radio figuratively. But I am able to choose what sounds I hear except silence.

It’s like a never ending mix.

Thanks and I’ll definitely check out the book recommendation.

edlarge31 karma

That is a really amazing ability. I think many musicians can do something similar ... even practice a performance mentally. I suppose it would be nice to turn off the music sometimes, though, right? We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00. Log on if you can and comment or ask another question live. See synchrony in action!

myusernamegetscutof2 karma

Sorry if this is vague, but a colleague of mine went to SFN and described some resesrch about EEG recordings being used to playback music that the brain was hearing. There were correlations about literary and musical ability that predicted the clarity and accuracy of the sounds the listener was hearing (better readers and musicians had clearer playback from their EEG session). Are you familiar with this research and do you have any opinions on what these correlations mean?

Likewise, are there any neuromiaging studies that have looked at determining what kind sound (or music) someone is simply imagining in their head?

edlarge36 karma

Great question. Your colleague may be referring to the work of Dr. Nina Kraus and her colleague Erika Skoe (now my colleague at UConn), who once recorded from human brain stem of people listening to "smoke on the water". When she plays the EEG, you can literally hear the song in the brainstem. I love that demo! Yes, I definitely have an opinion. The human brainstem is synchronizing to music too, but at a much faster time scale that the cortex. The brainstem synchronizes at hundreds maybe even thousands of Hz. The cortex synchronizes in the delta-theta range (fractions of 1 Hz up to about 10 Hz), as I described above. Brainstem synchronization is important in explaining pitch perception and consonance/dissonance in music. We have a model of brainstem synchronization too (but we aren't using it in our visualizations yet). It was published as

Lerud, K. L., Almonte, F. V., Kim, J. C. & Large, E. W. (2014). Mode-locked neural oscillation predicts human auditory brainstem responses to musical intervals. Hearing Research, 308, 41-49.

GriffGriffin2 karma

Does Gödel, Escher, Bach hold up with time? I read it in, I think 84, and loved it. Wondering if it is still relevant.

edlarge31 karma

Yes, I read it in the 80's too. I remember liking all those ideas. I think the main idea that still holds up for me -- with respect to music -- is the idea of recursion and 'turtles all the way down'. It is consonant with my approach to the neurodynamics of music and the idea that neural oscillation is at play at many different timescales from pitch to rhythm.

GriffGriffin1 karma

Thank you for the thoughtful reply. I like a lot of the book but one of the things that left an impression was how orchestral music can change with different chair arrangements. I like the idea of two waves crossing and creating a third, independent wave. Thank you for this AMA. Your field is very interesting. I look forward to what the future may bring.

edlarge31 karma

Thanks for joining. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see it in action!

Arcanehavok2 karma

Do you experience goosebumps when listening to a particular section or climax of certain songs as I do? Can you explain why it happens, is there any correlation between the amount of times you have listened to the song and the magnitude of goosebumps one experiences? Very rarely if at all do I get it the first time around until I personally taken the time appreciate the emotion I perceive to have been stored into the notes. Some of it is probably the conditioned response of anticipating the known outcome of the keys and tone of the piece of work. I personally compose some really amateur edm that I have successfully gotten goosebumps from, two of my songs in particular that I am also most happy with. I've never really studied music, only appreciated it. I'm just a propulsion engineer not an acoustic one. Music has really gotten me through some dark times, for lack of better words and for the sake everyone's time. But furthermore on that idea of helping someone, that was my goal in mind when creating my music. I wanted others to experience what I do through music, turns out my friends enjoy it, but it's not for the mass public, and it certainly isn't professional haha. I would love to sit in a room with you and bounce ideas off of the top of your head but surely there are minds more worthy of your time.

All I've ever read is that people who experience this specific sensation are "more open to experiencing new things" which doesn't really mean anything to me, like reading a super generalized horoscope that by definition is meant to relate to a large percentage of the population.

edlarge32 karma

I think yours is a really interesting observation. It has to do with the nuances that you are learning to hear in the music. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 EST. Log on if you can and ask this question live. And see Synchrony in action!

ergoticity2 karma

Is the entrainment of neural activity to synchrony a collective effect emerging from interactions over the whole network, or are there particular brain regions (thalamus perhaps?) that drive the activity in the network into particular frequency bands?

I notice one of your publications uses Izhikevich neurons. Do you think the brain operates on FM radio principles? Also, do you have any thoughts more generally on the thalamus/thalamic reticular nucleus, as it may relate to attention?

edlarge31 karma

There appear to be specific regions, but many of them. It is a thalamo-cortical-striatal network. I find Eugene's work truly inspiring. And yes, I think it is possible that the brain works on FM radio principles. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see it in action!

hollycatrawr2 karma

Hi, thank you for your work. What you are working on now is exactly what I was interested in doing when I first entered college in 2010. I had an idea to create music with EEG waves collected during states of meditation and visualization as my capstone project. I went down a different road so I'm not really up to date on the latest developments, but based on how far things have appear to have come since then it seems entirely possible that someone has done something similar by now. Is there anything that you know of?

And a theoretical/possibly practical question: Would somebody with an auditory processing disorder provide different feedback on an EEG? For example, below you said that Dr. Nina Kraus and Erika Skowe conducted an experiment in which they played Smoke on the Water for participants and then listened to the song as the brainstem "played it back." I know we are possibly getting into different systems here, but I suppose it is a question of how deep something like amusia goes, and if we have any way of replicating the auditory experience for the non-afflicted. Same with something like misophonia.

Put more simply: have you seen atypical/lesioned brains oscillating differently?

edlarge31 karma

Actually, there is. In fact, my colleague, Psyche Loui, just sent us some of her brain music to visualize. We put it on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gm1XQuCKGqU

We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see it in action!

butkaf2 karma

Hi Dr Large,

I'm only beginning my journey in the field of sensory and evolutionary neuroscience. I just wrote my thesis about how the structure of the human visual system gives rise to certain geometric hallucinations (Kluver's form constants) which can be used as a reliable model to compare to prehistoric art (and specifically, Late Neolithic pottery).

A lot of psychedelic art contains these form constants, because they manifest themselves when taking psychedelic drugs. I have always been attracted to this kind of art all my life, and I think it has to do with the fact that I am autistic (which can create a mode of sensory processing that has overlaps with the effects of psychedelics.) Likewise, I have always been attracted to psychedelic trance (psytrance and goa trance) which has always had profound effects on me. Some psychedelic trance sounds as if it sounds both "outside" and "inside" my ears, eventually becoming one big expanse of pure euphoria in which my consciousness and body just dissolve. It is a feeling like no other and I have never seen it described it by anyone else anywhere. It doesn't just sound good or pleasant, it's a whole new scale of experience.

From an academic perspective I would like to ask: Have you ever found a definable relationship between music that induces these types of experiences and the structure of the human auditory cortex, or in the way it processes auditory information? Have you ever heard of these types of experiences before and do you have any theories as to what might cause them?

From a personal one I would like to ask if it's possible to analyse the specific music that affects me, and look for commonalities and patterns? Any lead I have on what causes this effect allows me to understand it better and find more of it.

edlarge32 karma

This is super interesting. In a way, that's what I'm after with this visualization ... to communicate to people the complexity of our brain's dynamic responses to music. Here's one example. A music therapist, Andrew Dudley, just sent a a rhythmically free piano improvisation and asked us to test synchrony with it. Look what we saw: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owqua6zryHI. The complexity of this response is just a simple approximation of what is actually happening in your brain. So no wonder you (and lots of others) report such intense experiences in response to trance music, which has such a strong beat.

My colleague and collaborator, Mike Hove, is currently involved in fMRI and EEG responses to trance music. So the answer are starting to come in. Search google scholar for Michael Hove trance music and you will be able to read about his discoveries so far.

chels_orr_what1 karma

Is it possible to develop different types of synesthesia (not necessarily seeing specific colors relating to specific musical keys/modes) through practice or is it something that is simply innate for those who possess the ability?

edlarge31 karma

That's an interesting idea, but there are no reports of that as far as I am aware.

By the way, we are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see it in action!

DerekB741 karma

I contracted spinal meningitis when I was 2 and now suffer 97% hearing loss in my left ear due to the damage that it inflicted on the nerves leading to my brain from my ear. I'm not sure if you would know much about this or not but I thought I would at least ask; How close are we to being able to fix or at least deal with hearing loss due to nerve damage? Thanks for doing this btw!

edlarge32 karma

There is no way to fix it. But people are working on brainstem implants. At this point I'm not sure how good they are, but you could look into it. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 EST. Log on if you can and ask this question live. And see Synchrony in action!

RoadRacoon1 karma

Can you give me superpowers?

edlarge31 karma

If you consider synesthesia a superpower, then yes! Thanks for joining. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see it in action!

ohverygood1 karma

How's your son, Richard?

edlarge31 karma

You mean Dick? He's good! Thanks for joining. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see it in action!

trollinginmyskin1 karma

Is there any universality into people's taste, or is it totally subjective? Songs going viral makes me feel there might be something common, but then there are enough people who hate them or just don't find it good.

edlarge31 karma

Taste is really hard to study, but I think there definitely are universals. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00. Log on if you can and ask this question live. And see synchrony in action!

LeonCadillac1 karma

Can any of this be applied and studied through VR applications?

edlarge31 karma

I think so. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00. Log on if you can and ask this question live. And see synchrony in action!

tokvila1 karma

What are your thoughts on binaural beats? Do they work? Can you recommend interesting papers about them?

edlarge33 karma

I have to admit I don't know the answer to that. Binaural beating is a real phenomenon that can be measured in the lab. But people claim all kinds of cognitive and affective effects, I and just haven't seen the science on that.

tokvila1 karma

I usually experience a certain ease when using them for meditation or relaxation, but I would'nt say its anything extreme. What, in your opinion, would be interesting avenues for research with binaural beats?

edlarge31 karma

First thing I'd so would be to look at the higher frequency content of cortical EEG -- beta and gamma.

We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see it in action!

giesun1 karma

What do you know about the relationship between ayahuasca and music? South American shamans who conduct ayahuasca ceremonies sing what they call iqueros, which direct the experience. The iqueros themselves are minimally structured clicks, throat noises, and are without lyrics, or harmony, but when they are produced by the shaman, they change the entire experience according to the shamans will, i.e. The song they choose to sing.

As an example to demonstrate the level of control these folks have learned, if you are at a ceremony and wanted to see the jungle turn blue and asked and the shaman was so inclined, they could make it so through their Iqueros. Or if you wanted red, they could do that as well and would sing a different song from their blue song to make it so. Obviously this is all very subjective and easily dismissed because hallucinogens are involved, but there is a consensus among participants that the shaman is able to control the intensity of the experience, the type of visions one sees, and also the information which is imparted during the experience.

I'm skeptical by nature, however, my experiences with this suggest that these men and women have mastered through centuries of shared experience the manipulation of the relationship between the mind and music, if only in the ayahuasca consciousness.


edlarge31 karma

I know nothing about ayahuasca, but I will see what I can find on the topic.

We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see Synchrony in action!

prescriptionDUBZ1 karma

You're a theoretical neuroscientist, so I'm wondering if there's any possibility to the theory of Mentalism, which states that the universe itself is a mind? Have you come across any interesting evidence to support or disprove this theory?

BTW I'm very interested in cymatics and the science of sound, so the work you've mentioned in this post is very intriguing to me. Keep it up! There's always a new discovery to be made.

-a 21-year-old musician

edlarge31 karma

Thanks for joining. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook.

vade1 karma

Hi - I'm a Live Visualist (vj) and a programmer doing some early machine learning work - I'm curious if you'd be be releasing the model and or the training data?

How does your model work with non 4/4 timings, or even things like ambient, noise or textural sound art? I ask because as a live performer working with visualizing sound, most 'hand coded' tools assume some form of structure / beat detection and fail miserably to capture interesting 'second order' structure from non rhythmic sources.

Does this model only pertain to rhythmic sound, how does it respond to other types of musical-like input?

Also, you should make or sell a simple software that does audio input -> your model -> Open Sound Control so this can be linked to literally any other live performance software.

Thank you!

edlarge31 karma

We already have released a Matlab version of the model on Github. Se the thread for the info. Thanks for joining. We are doing a Kickstarter/Facebook/Instagram live today, July 2, at 12:00 if you want to ask questions live. Search for Synchrony LEDs on Kickstarter of Facebook. You can see it in action!

GeT_NoT1 karma

Does listenin classical music while studying makes study more efficient? Or does it increase attention given to subject?

edlarge33 karma

I get asked this a lot. And unfortunately, there is not a lot of research on this topic. There is some research that suggests it depends on the person: Extroverts will benefit from background music, introverts will become distracted. However, I think that answer is too simple. For example, as a musician I find that I become distracted because good music is too engaging.

GRIZ_IS_GOD1 karma

Have you introduced psychedelic drugs like LSD into your studies, and if so, what kind of changes in the data were you able to measure?

edlarge32 karma

It would certainly be interesting to do so. Unfortunately, introducing drugs into such studies (especially one as powerful LSD) make it difficult to get such studies authorized through the institutional review boards. I know of at least one study that is underway (with marijuana, not LSD), so let's see what we find.

timhobnob251 karma

Can you tldr explain the algorithm you used to transpose music to light or simply share your code for review?

edlarge34 karma

We have published a lot about it, and there is a simple version of the code on GitHub that is freely available to the public https://github.com/MusicDynamicsLab/GrFNNRhythm. The program that we actually use to visualize music is a more complicated than the free version, but the basic idea is the same. One thing that I would point out is that the important and unique aspect of the system is a network of neural oscillators. The algorithm numerically integrates this dynamical system. So in an important sense the lights are not controlled by an algorithm (i.e. by fixed rules). They are controlled baby the dynamics of this network. The reason to emphasize this point is that the LEDs may do something different every time they hear a song. It depends, for example, on what song they heard last. Bottom line, there are not fixed rules that determine the visualtization.

FanOfGoodMovies1 karma

Have you researched the effects of very low frequencies?
Have your peers replicated your research?

edlarge34 karma

What do you mean by "very low"?

In 1999 we published a paper theorizing that neural oscillations synchronize to music and speech rhythms. Now, the are literally 100's of papers that report observations of "neural entrainment" as it has come to be called in the literature. These studies are being conducted in labs all over the world.

hinsoft1 karma

Is there a link to specific moods reached with certain neural oscillations?

Tibetan Monks come to mind, those who reach a type of "nirvana" when making the ohm sound.

edlarge32 karma

One of my students and wrote a paper in which we speculate about that. The idea we proposed was that neural synchrony with musical gives rise to musical qualia (feelings) including tonal and temporal expectancies, and that music-synchronous responses couple into core neurodynamics, enabling music to directly modulate core affect (the feelings associated with emotions).

We do not yet understand the nature of the coupling, but this is exactly what we are working on now.