Wednesday, 18 November 2009


After having lunch with my wife and neuroscientist Axel Lindner speaking about our common presentation on Saturday at Schnittstelle Mensch, I associatively point to a website recommended to me by bat sonar researcher (yeah!) Hans-Ulrich Schnitzler: Their James Bond-like self-advertisement:
"NeuroPop uses the math behind the mind to create weapons grade sound design. We use our proprietary Neurosensory Algorithm (NSA) technology to modify any sounds or music to activate specific parts of the listener’s brain and get the emotional responses you want."
On the basis of results of recent neuroscience research, any sound, i.e. also music, can be modified in a way that it causes certain neurophysiological effects. For example as "sonic branding" a subconscious recognition effect, stress reduction, sleep inducing, attention direction or inducing particular emotions. The armory of sound design would thus significantly go beyond established psychoacoustic methods.

On their website there are some "Toys" from which I cannot see the great leap forward compared to pre-neuroscientific times. I do not doubt that e. g. one sound event immediately stimulates neuronal processes correlated with psychic relaxation, while another sound event maybe induces a feeling of threat, given the same conditions. But I doubt that these effects remain significant when conditions vary, if e. g. the same brain region is to be stimulated by "Neurosensory Algorithm (NSA) technology" in two pieces of music which differ, if only slightly, in expression.

It is of course a massive scientist's PR exaggeration to claim that it is possible to "get the emotional responses you want". This can be done for certain impulses (and by no means for any emotional response you want) with electrodes placed directly into the brain regions in question. But with sounds? Concerning this, I am very much looking forward to the talk of Eckart Altenmüller of the Institut für Musikphysiologie und Musikermedizin Hannover on "Music as a universal language of the emotions?" Friday eve at Kupferbau in Tübingen.
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