During the Edinburgh Science Festival I attended a lecture called ‘The Art of Neuroscience’. It was run by a group of scientists who are responsible for the design of the new neuroscience wing being built at the Little France hospital.
Much of their work is dedicated to creating an atmosphere that is calming through the use of art, sound and words, not just in the context of neurological disorders, but in many other areas as well. This committee decided things to help patients from having individual rooms and digital systems by beds.
Many of their decision are influenced by results they received from EEGs. An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that detects electrical activity in your brain using small, flat metal discs (electrodes) attached to your scalp. Your brain cells communicate via electrical impulses and are active all the time, even when you’re asleep. This activity shows up as wavy lines on an EEG recording.
These EEGs are being used to see the brain’s unconscious reactions to different stimuli. Using these EEGs, physicians are able to see the brains unconscious decisions, so whether that be to music or to bedtime stories, they can determine what is relaxing the patient even if they are not consciously aware of it. To do this they look at the brain waves. Different rates of waves expresses different feelings. From this they have been able to create music with this in mind and so have created music reflecting the brain waves in a patient that are present when they are calm and relaxed. In a clinical setting, they hope to have this available to patients in their rooms but also to have a ‘calm room’ for the use of patients but also doctors particularly between surgery. This would be a place for anyone in the hospital to go to to gather their thoughts and have a break form the hospital world.
To determine how stimuli is affecting the patients many different factors are taken into consideration. These include the physiological affects, FMRI, EEG, and literally asking the patients how they are feeling. This is helpful in discovering whether it is having an unconscious or conscious affect on the patient.
Several parts of the brain are involved with music-
Corpus callosum: Connects both sides of the brain
Motor cortex: Involved in movement while dancing or playing an instrument
Prefrontal cortex: Controls behaviour, expression and decision
Nucleus accumbent and amygdala: Involved with emotional reactions to music
Sensory cortex: Controls tactile feedback while playing instruments or dancing
Auditory cortex: Listens to sounds (perceives and analyses tones)
Hippocampus: Involved n music memories, experiences and context
Visual cortex: Involved in reading music or looking at your own dance moves
Cerebellum: Involved in movement while dancing or playing an instrument, as well as emotional reactions
These are all influenced by pyschocoustics which is the affect of sound on the state of mind.
Another major part of the new innovations is based on smell. The use of smell memory is a new but interesting part of neuroscience involving the use of smells to stimulate memories or experiences form the most primitive parts of the brain.
The combinations of all these new innovations paves the way for a successful new
neuroscience wing at the new Little France.
(Apologies for all of the fullstops I’ve had an editing issue – hope you don’t mind – Emily)
Many thanks to the Edinburgh Science Festival for providing this lecture and the DCN Fellowship for all of the ideas presented here today.