This music venue reads minds to discover why we love live performances so much

A new music facility called LIVELab is using technology in an incredible way to help us better understand why humans love music. LIVELab uses brain scanning in order to help its creators monitor how and why humans react to music compositions.
LiveLAB data
LiveLAB makes it possible to analyse music and brain activity. Photo: LiveLAB.

Non-verbal communication

LiveLAB has been developed by the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind, and has examined the effect of flute music on the brain. The project aims to uncover how musicians can communicate and co-ordinate non-verbally, along with the role that music plays in early development.

It is known that human beings react to music from a very tender age, yet little is known about how or why. So the LIVELab experiment hopes to learn more from multiple perspectives including perceptual, cognitive, social and emotional development.

LIVELab is an acronym for Large Interactive Virtual Environment Laboratory, and the facility is located at a concert hall set aside for research, at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The facility functions as a high-tech laboratory and theater, making complex research and investigation into the neural response to music possible.

LiveLAB data
The facility uses state-of-the-art technology. Photo: via PXHere.

Unique facility

McMaster University is proud of the LIVELab project, as it represents the only facility of this nature anywhere on the planet. LIVELab combines an extensive 106-seat concert hall with scientific facilities, encompassing microphones, speakers, and sensors, which then measure brain and anatomical responses to music.

The university has recruited a wide range of technical experts in order to work on this unique project, with engineers, psychologists, and clinician-researchers working alongside musicians from the university. The LIVELab project hopes to understand how neural processing works with regard to music, and why different brains perceive music in different ways.

Another interesting aspect of LIVELab is that the ability to control acoustics within the facility means that a variety of different conditions can be created. The approximate listening conditions of everything from a busy bar to complete silence can be created, meaning that researchers can assess how different forms of ambience impact on the musical appreciation process.

Music brain scanning
It is already known that live music impacts on the brain differently to recorded pieces. Photo: MITO SettembreMusica via Flickr.

Mental impact

While researchers study how we make music, real-time physiological data can be synchronized, to garner a holistic impression of how music impacts on us mentally, psychologically and emotionally. It is then hoped that the continued study of this critical aspect of human culture will enable researchers to understand health benefits, and develop effective and innovative clinical treatments.

And the information collected during LIVELab sessions is available so much quicker than would be possible in a laboratory setting. The data collated would take weeks or months to acquire in a traditional lab, making this a speedy and cost-effective way to study this particularly interesting area of neuroscience.

Studies have already shown that people experience live music in a different way to that which has been pre-recorded, and by studying the process in more depth, researchers from McMaster University hope to gain greater insight in the weeks, months, and years to come.

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