Researchers hope brain implants will one day help people who have lost the ability to speak to get their voice back—and maybe even to sing. Now, for the first time, scientists have demonstrated that the brain’s electrical activity can be decoded and used to reconstruct music.
A new study analyzed data from 29 people who were already being monitored for epileptic seizures using postage-stamp-size arrays of electrodes that were placed directly on the surface of their brain. As the participants listened to Pink Floyd’s 1979 song “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1,” the electrodes captured the electrical activity of several brain regions attuned to musical elements such as tone, rhythm, harmony and lyrics. Employing machine learning, the researchers reconstructed garbled but distinctive audio of what the participants were hearing. The study results were published on Tuesday in PLOS Biology.