Scientists have derived Pink Floyd’s song “Another Brick in the Wall” from people’s brain waves. That’s why they made history by decoding a recognizable song based on electrical brain activity. The reconstruction is far from perfect, but The Guardian says it could help people with brain disorders restore the “musicality of natural speech.”
This experiment is more than a gimmicky way to reproduce an old song. It shows that we have the technology and skills to translate brain activity into thoughts. In other words, this study is the closest we’ve come to “mind-reading powers,” reminiscent of science fiction. That has a lot of extraterrestrial implications that so many experts are trying to explore.
This article discusses how scientists ‘translated’ brain waves into a Pink Floyd song. Then I’ll share other recent experiments on brain activity.
How did scientists convert brain waves into a song?
Researchers played a three-minute snippet of the Pink Floyd song “Another Brick in the Wall” to 29 patients. Electrodes on their brains detected brain activity while they underwent epilepsy surgery.
The scientists then used artificial intelligence to decipher the recorders and encode a reproduction of the melody and lyrics. It sounds muffled, but the phrase “All in all, it’s just another brick in the wall” is recognizable in the reconstructed song.
Professor Robert Knight, a neurologist from the University of California, said: “It sounds a bit like they’re talking underwater, but it’s our first chance at this.” He also claims that using denser electrodes can improve reconstructions.
“The average separation of the electrodes was about 5 mm, but we had a few patients with a separation of 3 mm, and they performed the best in terms of reconstructions,” the professor said.
“Now that we know how to do this, I think if we had electrodes that were one and a half millimeters apart, the sound quality would be much better. The Guardian says we may be able to replicate this research without electrodes as brain recording methods improve.
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Instead, we could replace them with scalp electrodes that are less intrusive and more sensitive. This study of brain waves revealed two insights about music and our minds.
First, this was possible because of the way music works. We hear a tune and our brain perceives it as the same activity, so recording it would produce similar results.
That’s why the scientists were able to identify those brain waves and reconstruct them into a song. Second, “This (new study) is a really nice demonstration that many of the same techniques developed for speech decoding can also be applied to music,” says Dr. Alexander Huth of the University of Texas.
Similar brainwave projects
Other groups have explored how we can decipher brain waves and use them to perform tasks. Elon Musk’s Neuralink is one of the best known.
Last year at the Tesla Show and Tell event, he said Neuralink implants are like “replacing a piece of your skull with a smartwatch.” Neuralink co-founder DJ Seo then demonstrated how the company would install these chips in human brains.
Seo showed a robotic surgeon inserting wires into specific parts of a mannequin’s brain. The event then featured a monkey typing words on a screen with its Neuralink implant.
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The primate moved a cursor to select and enter letters, entering words like “type” and “welcome to show and tell.” On the other side of the world, researchers at Osaka University used AI systems to convert brain waves into images.
Yu Takagi and his team started the research by accessing brain scans from the University of Minnesota. They then trained AI image generators DALL-E and Stable Diffusion to link images to specific brain activity.
They added captions to the images to enhance the AI-generated images. As a result, artificial intelligence systems were able to read respondents’ minds as they looked at the University of Minnesota samples.
Scientists have reconstructed a Pink Floyd classic from brain waves. As a result, they proved that we understand brain activity so well that we could translate it into sounds and texts.
This could also have consequences for future speech decoding technologies. More importantly, it could help scientists find a way to help people with neurological disorders express musicality while speaking.
Learn more about this brainwave experiment by reading it log on the Public Library of Science website. Also check out more digital tips and trends on Inquirer Tech.
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