Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sounds to Cure

Sounds can have a powerful effect on living beings - humans, animals, plants. Relaxing music can have a healing effect. A new study showed this specifically for premature babies.

Live ocean disc whoosh sounds, gato box rhythms, and parent's sung
lullabies - these sounds have been found to be especially beneficial increasing infants' capacity to feed, sleep, and self-regulate.

Baby's hearing develops in the womb. The very first sound unborn baby hears at about 16 weeks of development is the mother's heartbeat. Gato - a small rectangular wooden drum - creates a rhythm in soft timbre that reminds the heartbeat. Ocean waves resemble the fluid sounds of the womb, as well as inhalation and exhalation sounds. And a sweet lullaby could definitely soothe anyone who has problems trying to get to sleep or suffer with insomnia - as this is one of the oldest, most natural forms of human interaction that brings feelings of warmth and togetherness.

Loewy J, Stewart K, Dassler AM, Telsey A, Homel P.The Effects of Music Therapy on Vital Signs, Feeding, and Sleep in Premature Infants. Pediatrics. 2013 Apr 15. [Epub ahead of print

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Big Data of Sounds

Hearing begins with the ears, but it's more than the sum of sounds. We are able to recognize piano notes and experience music, understand speech in noisy surroundings and localize voice in 3D.  Is it because the sound transmitted to the inner ear is broken down into frequencies and mapped onto the brain like musical notes are mapped on a piano keyboard? But are not we able to hear different things at once in three dimensions? Are not we translating frequencies into meanings on the fly, processing Big Data better than any famous statistician? As Jacob Oppenheim and Marcelo Magnasco showed that simple decomposition of sounds into its components by Fourier transform loses important information about the sound's duration, something that our brain is actually able to overcome. Humans can beat the limits of Fourier analysis, and the Brain processes the big data of sounds better than existing algorithms do. As a matter of fact, training our brain on music makes us better in math and problem solving skills. While inability to process signals in the brain leads to developmental disorders. More to discover, more to learn.


Oppenheim, Jacob N., and Marcelo O. Magnasco. "Human Time-Frequency Acuity Beats the Fourier Uncertainty Principle." arXiv preprint arXiv:1208.4611(2012).

Díaz, Begoña, et al. "Dysfunction of the auditory thalamus in developmental dyslexia." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109.34 (2012): 13841-13846.