Making music from neurons

Simon(e)San changes the way scientists think about brain cells: Making music from neurons.

Looking through a microscope, Ph.D. candidate Simon(e) Sun takes a tiny glass pipette and carefully brings it to a neuron in a petri dish. She records synaptic activity-the electrochemical signals by which neurons communicate with each other. The data collected will be used to understand the microprocesses in the brain.

They will also be turned into music.

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Combining science and art, Sun wrote a computer program that takes her data and converts it into a song. And the ethereal MIDI sounds aren’t just pleasant to listen to – they can teach us a lot about how the brain works.

Sun is studying what she calls “homeostatic plasticity,” which is how neurons regulate their activity. Her research has broad implications for the field of neuroscience. Ultimately, it could help researchers better understand neuropsychiatric diseases, such as autism, or create better brain-computer interfaces.

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The Verge Science video team joined Sun in Txien’s lab at NYU Langone Health’s Neuroscience Institute to record some neurons and create the original song. Watch our latest video to see what we learned and get a feel for the sounds of synapses.

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