back to article Brainwaves rock! Scientists decode Pink Floyd tune straight from the noggin

A group of scientists say they are the first to reconstruct a recognizable song from data collected directly from the brain by monitoring electrical activity and modeling the resultant patterns with regression-based decoding models. That song is Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1" and the question on the mind of …

  1. TRT Silver badge
    1. that one in the corner Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Sounds like...

      Oooh, thank you. Clearly I'm not as much of a Pinkie as I thought, as I had no idea that existed :-(

      The track list alone is intriguing. Even if it turns out to be (to these ears) ghastly, it's got to be worth listening to at least once, if only to find out what the more than seven dwarves are doing.

      And, yes, if the tech existed back then then they'd have used it.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like...

        I noticed it in the CD section of Brighton library whilst browsing one day, way back in 1987. Saw the names... borrowed the disk... was enchanted by the utter lunacy, humour and charm of it. Over the years, whenever I remember, I try to get the DVD of the film. Haven't succeeded yet.

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    patterns with regression-based decoding models.

    Surely Pink Floyd were more of a prog-rock group?

    1. Catkin

      Re: patterns with regression-based decoding models.

      You're thinking of pre-Waters Floyd.

      1. ectel

        Re: patterns with regression-based decoding models.

        There is no Pre-Waters Floyd, only Post-Waters

        If you want to see Early Floyd check out Nick Mason playing the Sid Barret and upto Animals. A superb show.

    2. Paul Herber Silver badge

      Re: patterns with regression-based decoding models.

      PF were around long before prog. Psychedelia was their first genre. Not that anyone had "genres" in those days, but that was their thing. That was the bag they were into, man.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: patterns with regression-based decoding models.

        I've got a cloak it's a bit of a joke ...

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: patterns with regression-based decoding models.

          Sky Arts showed the David Bowie self-promo video "Love You 'til Tuesday" on Sunday. That's a 20 minute trip to Tripsville. Even has the original video for Space Oddity in it.

  3. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge


    the worms ate into his braainn

  4. ravenviz Silver badge

    Visceral response

    There are certain songs I play that *always* give me goosebumps and make my whole body tingle. Explain that, boffins!

    1. sitta_europea Silver badge

      Re: Visceral response

      "The Final Cut" reduced me to tears the first time I listened to it in 1983 (unluckily this was in the lounge at my Production Manager's new home) and it still does if I'm not ready for it.

    2. Paul Herber Silver badge

      Re: Visceral response

      PF's Echoes is one of them.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Visceral response

        The first time I heard 'Eclipse' as it was called then at Brighton Dome, 20th Jan 1972 was out of this world. That was the premier of what later became DSOTM. It was a very early version of the iconic piece but all the main parts were there.

        Then they played Echoes at the opening of the second half. Even then, all it took was one note for it to be recognised by the crowd.

        Yes, I'm getting old but the sheer technique that they brought to their music makes most of the modern [cough][cough] stars look like 3yr olds with their toy piano. Having to Lip-sync at Glasto? get outahere.

        1. ravenviz Silver badge

          Re: Visceral response

          More than an upvote!

    3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Visceral response

      I think Pink Floyd wrote a lot of those, too.

      Interestingly, there are a lot of prog rock and prog metal bands that have their own "version" of Comfortably Numb, in some way or another. For me they often trigger the same emotions as the original.

  5. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Big Brother

    This Happy Thought Experiment

    has dark undertones. With a stable technology how long do you think it will be before road side brain scans will be implemented by the Home Office?

    "Oh, we know you're not a terrorist, sir. Just stick you noggin in this helmet to confirm."

    Every other technology ever invented has ended up in the hands of the irresponsible or dictators, so why would this be any different?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This Happy Thought Experiment

      Step 1: have population undergo mandatory brain surgery to implant electrodes.

      Step 2: ???

      Step 3: profit

      1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: This Happy Thought Experiment

        Not needed, eventually. All they will need to do is figure out an induction method, then just being in a room will be enough to do a full brain scan. You may not even know it happened. But it is disturbing that they have successfully recreated someone's thoughts via a scan, as the hard part is always making it work the first time. Once you make it work, the rest is just refinement. You know that once large government spy agencies get wind of this that they will take the lead on development. We may only have 10 more years of privacy between our own ears left.

        This icon has never been more relevant.

        1. Newb

          Re: This Happy Thought Experiment

          Fear not, behold the tinfoil hat.

    2. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Re: This Happy Thought Experiment

      Happy? Have you listened to The Wall?!

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: This Happy Thought Experiment

        Or Pink himself from the movie? I think Boomtown Rats "I don't like Mondays" also had a mind control theme??

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We don’t need no re-education



    Run like hell!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This appears to be remarkably similar to the study re-constructing doctor who scenes from EEG recordings and (as far as I can tell) suffers from the same problem with its methodology.

    i.e. The recorded data was from people listening to a single Pink Floyd song. An algorythm was used to associate brain activity as recorded by the EEG with sounds from parts of the song. So far so good.

    However, it's unfortunate that they appear to be using the same data to test the pattern matching as was used to create it.

    Unsurprisingly, when you use the *same* EEG data as input to make the sounds identified with activity in each identified area of the brain to create your pattern matching algorythmn as you use to test it, you end up with something that sounds vaguely like the input.

    Had they recorded new EEGs of (say) Pink Floyd live in Pompei, and not used it in the original dataset and then used that EEG recording to generate audio using the model created from the first dataset, the study would be much more interesting. (and weird...)

    1. Alien Doctor 1.1

      Oh you anonymous sod...

      Live in Pompeii is just amazing. I always watch that in the same session as the fantastic Crystal Voyager surfing movie with Echoes as the final 20-odd minutes.

    2. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      I don't think you thought this all the way through. They will use the same data to see if they can reliably repeat the experiment. Once they are sure, they will move on to other songs. Let them test 2-3 songs when they know the song and repeat it, then they will start trying blind - let the person listen to a random song, see if they can retrieve the correct song.

      This is the beginning of a very, very dangerous branch of technology.

  8. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Is this piracy ?

    Home Brain Scanning is Killing Music !

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    So, one tiny step closer to the Matrix

    I wouldn't really mind a life of leisure in exchange for serving as a battery.

    Of course, chuck in fine medical attention and extra-long life while you're at it, thank you.

  10. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Richness and complexity a matter of opinion?

    'what the boffins described as a "rich and complex auditory stimulus."'

    In terms of actual complexity (which can be numerically defined in terms of rhythmic, tonal and harmonic variation), I wonder (rhetorically) how 'another brick' compares with, say, a flamenco guitar solo or a choral motet like Tallis's 40 part Spem in Alium. It seems that only commercial music from the last half century or so out of the 600 years and vast array of genres on record registers with these folks as existing.

  11. steelpillow Silver badge

    How far can this go?

    All our brains are similar at the coarsest scale. But even in the slightly less gross details we differ. Musicians, artists, mathematicians, dyslexics, epileptics and so on have some surprisingly big differences. Down in the nitty-gritty, every brain is different: no two tangles of neurones are exactly alike and some are quite radically different. So there has to be a bottom level of detail that these telepathic chatbots must bottom out at, thank God. Below that, they become increasingly unreliable and the details soon become drowned in the randomness. Reconstructing Pink Floyd riffs through the bottom of a bucket is probably not too far from the theoretical limit. Wonder if they'll try and drag out my memories of the Animals tour London gig, back ca. 1977...

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: How far can this go?

      Well all this is doing is essentially tapping into the line between the ear and the rest of the brain, since the music is being played for people while their brainwaves are monitored. Being able to reconstruct audio that's recalled from a memory would be orders of magnitude more difficult - quite likely impossible.

  12. Sudosu Bronze badge

    A good start

    Wait until they get to The Wall Part III

  13. benderama

    So, could they discern whether the song was being listened to or whether the participants were just singing along in their heads?

    How many of the participants knew the song prior to the study, how many were not aware of it?

  14. sketharaman

    Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid

    If this had art, it would be the modern day equivalent of GEB.

  15. PRR Bronze badge

    Another Brick... has many variants. Just casually I have accumulated a Rap version and a banjo pickin'-on. And a Brick from Pink Turtle (cool French swing).

    Brick from Pink Turtle

    Hotel California may have more parodies.

    YouTube is good for discovering odd mash-ups.

  16. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

    Want to be really disturbed?

    Once they make this work, and they can read our minds like reading a book, what is the next logical step? Seeing if they can reverse the process, and make it stick. Once that happens, hello totalitarianism.

    Resistance is futile.

    1. Newb

      Re: Want to be really disturbed?

      I'll sell you an ad-blocking helmet. In fact, I'll put the desire to buy my ad-blocking helmet in your head.

  17. Julz


    always liked the Easy All-Stars, Dub Side Of The Moon

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