Your Mind AS Music

Thomas Hum-Hyder

On Thursday March 3rd, Prof. Dan Lloyd, the Brownell Professor of Philosophy presented the idea that everything in the brain is “as music,” contrasting the playful expression “brain on music.” He posited the internal functional dynamics of the brain resemble the dynamics of music. He began with the analogy of an app – phenomenologically, one can look at low level and high level understandings of how apps work. On the lower level, we know that the flow of electrons is involved with someone seeing the screen on their phone; similarly, one can realize that wires and circuits form the structure of the phone that houses the app. The middle level, the code of the program or the phone, connects the lower level to the higher level. This idea of finding the middle level of our understanding of behavior is where Prof. Lloyd’s research comes in. He believes that music can be distinguished from language through a measure of “zipf-y-ness” which goes along the idea that every modern speaking language, ancient language, un-interpreted language, and even programming language, have words that appear more frequently than others, and that the plot of the most occurring words appear as a power curve. Using fMRI data from the Institute of Living as well as from the national archives, Prof. Lloyd manipulated the data that allowed for a musical tone to play as the brain scan plays out. After listening to some sample scans, I was surprised to learn that it was rather easy to distinguish between the sounds of an fMRI scan from a healthy control from a schizophrenic patient. The idea that an untrained ear could actually hear the difference in the ways in which the brains of these individuals sounds suggests that music can provide the basis for the ways in which our brains work.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *