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Science!

Here's what a brain seizure sounds like when converted into music

By Glenn Jackson
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After attending a musical performance in which radio signals from outer space were converted into musical tones, Stanford neurologist Josef Parvizi was struck with an idea: What if the brain activity of a patient experiencing a seizure was converted into music? Would it help him to be able to tell the difference between normal brain activity from that of an epileptic seizure? As it turns out, the answer is yes, and the resulting, somewhat harrowing audio from Parvizi’s first experiment can now be streamed.

In collaboration with Stanford music research professor Chris Chafe—a renowned expert in musification, the act of converting natural signals to music—the pair were able to convert an EEG reading of a patient experiencing a seizure into actual audio. The example uploaded to YouTube was taken from a patient who had been resting in bed when the recording started until, as Parvizi explains:

“Around 0:20, the patient’s seizure starts in the right hemisphere, and the patient is talking and acting normally. Around 1:50, the left hemisphere starts seizing while the right is in a post-ictal state. The patient is mute and confused. At 2:20 both hemispheres are in the post-ictal state.”

Not for the lighthearted, the audio that resulted from the seizure can be heard below (don’t worry, there is no image included with the audio), and serves as another powerful example of the many ways music and science can interact.