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Researchers Turn Seizures Into Music

19 February, 2003

Researchers at the University of Kansas are working to bring epilepsy research and music together by creating a musical model to simplify the details and problems researchers can run into when studying the brain activity during a seizure.

Ivan Osorio, associate professor of neurology and Kip Haaheim, associate professor of music, are two members of a team converting brain waves recorded during an epileptic seizure into a musical model. The model will attribute a different key note to the axons of the brain, which are neuro-networks connected throughout the brain.

Professor Osorio commented that the music should help as the ear has a higher resolution than the eye when processing patterns:

"This model will use all quantitative attempts to transduce a seizure into music. It will more faithfully reflect the changes that happen at an electrical level."

After the music is put into a musical model, Osorio said it would help change the parameters in analysing an epileptic seizure.

Sanjah Singh, director of the epilepsy program at the University of Nebraska, said using music to model a seizure has never been thoroughly explored. Research has found links between epilepsy and music, Singh said, and he can understand why Osorio was interested in developing this research.

"The only issue is that brain waves during a seizure have so many abnormal patterns that are so varied the difference can be subtle and it could be really challenging to interpret the data" Singh said.

The team has been researching the project since late 2001. In Spring 2002, Osorio, Haaheim and others completed a musical representation of an epileptic seizure. Haaheim said the project last spring worked as an interface between the public and the confusing, sometimes misunderstood, epileptic seizure.