Sonifying the electrical patterns of rat brains

Neurosonics I is the first outgrowth of a collaboration I did with neuroscience graduate student Tahra Eissa, supported by the Arts|Science Initiative at the Logan Center for the Arts. Tahra’s lab runs experiments that study the electrical behavior of cultured rat neurons, and uses these data in the study of epilepsy. All of the sounds in the piece bear some relationship to the neuron activity: the pulses of raw noise that murmur at the opening are direct sonifications, while the unstable vibrating sounds use the neuron activity to manipulate filtering and some spectral frequencies. There are also drum sounds: Tahra plays percussion with the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, and she had previously noticed a relationship between certain drumming patterns and the electrical activity in the experiments. So I recorded her playing a handful of these patterns on her darabukka. All of these sounds float together in three-dimensional space, eventually combining into a maelstrom of activity. Neurosonics does not directly describe the epileptic experience, but I do have a personal connection to it, as I was diagnosed with a mild form of the condition 11 years ago.

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