An American expert has created a technique that, according to him, can turn the human brain's flickering activity into music.
Philosopher Dan Lloyd at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, believes that listening to scans may give new insights into the differences and similarities between normal and dysfunctional brains.
He points out that brain scans created using functional MRI consist of a series of images in which different areas light up with varying intensity at different times, and that these can be used to determine which parts of the brain are active during a particular task.
Lloyd revealed that to turn such scans into music, he identified regions that become active together, and assigned each of those groups a different pitch.
He later created a software program to analyse a series of scans and generate the notes at those pitches.
The researcher has revealed that each note is played at a volume that corresponds to the intensity of activity.
Upon feeding the software a set of scans of his own brain, taken as he switched between driving a virtual-reality car and resting, Lloyd observed that he could the switch-over in the sounds.
He then gave the software scans taken from volunteers with dementia and schizophrenia, and from healthy volunteers.
He found that the brains of people with schizophrenia switched between low and high activity more erratically than those of healthy subjects, allowing the two types of brain to be distinguished by sound alone.
Even though this difference can be seen by looking at the images, Lloyd's collaborator Vince Calhoun, at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, says that there are variations in the music from people with schizophrenia that are not visually obvious.
"It almost sounds like there is more background warbling," he says.
The researcher believes that such "unsteady rhythms and cadences" may be indicative of dysfunction in the brain.
Lloyd further observed that the sounds and rhythms in the brains of people with dementia also distinguished from those in the brains of healthy volunteers.
He is now keen on exploring the aesthetic aspects of brain music.
"It's not quite like composed sound but it's not random either, it's 'almost music'. My students are putting it on their playlists," he said.