When I heard about the “Your Brain on Art” call for submissions I was instantly intrigued. The Branch Out Neurological Foundation would pair artists with neuroscience projects to create a new work inspired by the brain research. I have been including science in my art since University when my interest in sound waves began. I have also been using brain imagery in my artwork since my B.F.A. I am captivated by the connection between brain science and our human experience.
I was ultimately accepted and paired with the neurologist Taylor Chomiak and his research on “Music Training Biofeedback.” The project titled, “Ambulosono” offers Parkinson’s patients wearable-sensor systems that link motor action with rewarding musical feedback. I met with the neurologist to discuss his research. He showed me videos of his patients walking before his interventions. Many people with Parkinson’s experience a shuffling type of walk or even the stoppage of walking all together. The patients then chose a piece of music that related to them emotionally. This music was played for them and they were again asked to walk. The change was astounding. For one gentleman, he was able to start walking with a natural gait, dancing alone and even with his wife! It was clear how the music impacted their ability to walk normally again. As we continued to talk, Chomaik showed me another video and shared the story of a lady who also suffered from shuffling and stoppage of walking. She chose the song “Dancing Queen” for her exercise as it reminded her of the good times of her youth. With the music playing, she was able to walk normally. Without it she struggled, shuffled or stopped half way.
I was curious if the type of music made a difference in the results. Taylor explained that it indeed did make a huge difference. He showed me the same example of the woman walking to “Dancing Queen” but with the melody removed and only the beat playing, similar to a karaoke sound track. She was no longer able to walk normally like she did with the full song playing. It became clear that the emotional component of the music was important as well as the connection of the song to the person’s memory. This story was so inspiring to me and I decided to use it for my artwork.
In my artwork, I have represented the song “Dancing Queen” by Abba using sound waves in circular form. The left sides of the circle are sound waves from a karaoke version of “Dancing Queen” without the melody. The right side sound waves are from the original song. I have used colours in the background to represent the brain scans of a Parkinson’s brain (left) and a brain responding to music (right). On top of the piece are two linear graphs, which represent the change in velocity and acceleration of someone walking to the different kinds of music. You can see how the walking stride becomes longer and more regular when listening to the emotionally connected music (right). This piece represents how music, emotion and health are intertwined.
"Dancing Queen" will be displayed at cSPACE on the first floor gallery from May 14-18. The online auction on Bidding for Good opens May 7 and closes May 17.
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