The heart of tech is coming to the heart of the Mediterranean. Join TNW in València this March 🇪🇸

This article was published on September 23, 2012

UK Universities secure £880,000 to map brainwaves for remix concerts and more

UK Universities secure £880,000 to map brainwaves for remix concerts and more
Jamillah Knowles
Story by

Jamillah Knowles

Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemi Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemimah_knight or drop a line to [email protected]

If you’ve restlessly scrolled through playlists trying to find something to suit your mood or lift your spirits, then you might be pleased to know that there’s an intelligent music computer that is working on matching music to your brain.

Or you might be a bit freaked out, depending on where your threshold for brain mapping lies.

Led by Plymouth University’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research (ICCMR) in partnership with the Cybernetics Research Group at the University of Reading, and entitled ‘Brain-Computer Interface for Monitoring and Inducing Affective States’ (BCMI-MIdAS), the project has just been awarded £880,000 (1.4 USD) over four years by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The system works by analysing brain activity in a listener and searching for emotional indicators. Using that information and a database of music, the computer generates new sounds that can alter emotions.

Changing our emotional state with music is something we might do for ourselves quite often, but having this changed by a computer might sound a bit weird. That said, in shopping malls and restaurants, music has been used for a long time to influence the way people feel in these places.

According to the universities, the research may be used in health and entertainment. It has been proposed that it could be useful for stress and depression therapy as well as finding commercial outlets in gaming and music technology.

The project is led by Dr Eduardo Miranda, a composer and professor at ICCMR and Dr Slawomir Nasuto of the University of Reading.

Brains in concert

There’s going to be a public performance highlighting the research next year. A concert entitled, ‘Symphony of Minds Listening’ will take place at the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival in Plymouth.

For the concert a ballerina, a Gulf war veteran and Dr Miranda have all undergone functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMIR) brain scans as they listened to the second movement of Beethoven’s  ‘7th Symphony’.

The responses were analysed and Dr Miranda is re-structuring the original orchestral score to reflect the volunteers’ brain activity during listening.

The resulting ‘remixes’ will be played by Plymouth University’s Ten Tors Orchestra, conducted by Simon Ible, Peninsula Arts  Director of Music and co-director of the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival, while a movie showing the brain activity of the three persons will be screened during the concert.

Dr Miranda, says that emotions may play a bigger part in the way human think, “Philosophers and developers of Artificial Intelligence have often regarded the process of human thinking as the logical manipulation of symbols. However this paradigm is shifting rapidly towards the notion that emotions play a vital role in intelligent behaviour, perhaps even more so than logics.

“Music, probably the most sophisticated symbolic system evolved for human expression, is becoming increasingly important in probing intelligence, both natural and artificial, because of its powerful ability to convey emotions.

“The big question that we are addressing is the impact of music on human development, from the advancement of our understanding of the brain to its contribution to the development of Artificial Intelligence. We hope that this understanding will lead to new technologies and new ways to compose music.”

How comfortable would you be if your iPod could shuffle in response to your emotional state? Maybe in future, there will be no need to craft the best possible Spotify list when you could simply hook yourself up and think about the party you’d like to create.

Image Credit: KarmaOWL

Back to top