The Science of Singing: New, High-Speed MRI Machine Images Man Singing ‘If I Only Had a Brain’

Back in December, Ayun Halliday took you inside an MRI machine to explore the neuroscience of jazz improvisation and musical creativity. Along the way, you got to see Johns Hopkins surgeon Charles Limb jam on a keyboard inside one of those crowded, claustrophobia-inducing tubes. How could you beat that for entertainment?

Today, we return with a new video showing another way the MRI machine is giving scientists new insights into the making of music. This time the focus is on how we produce sounds when we sing. When “we sing or speak, the vocal folds—the two small pieces of tissue [in our neck]—come together and, as air passes over them, they vibrate,” and produce sound. That’s basically what happens. We know that. But the typical MRI machine, capturing about 10 frames per second, is too slow to really let scientists break down the action of the larynx. Enter the new, high speed MRI machine at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois, working at 100 frames per second. It does the trick.

Above, you can see the new machine in action, as a volunteer sings ‘If I Only Had a Brain.’ Get more of the backstory over at the Beckman Institute.

via Mental Floss

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Related Content:

This is Your Brain on Jazz Improvisation: The Neuroscience of Creativity

Why We Love Repetition in Music: Explained in a New TED-Ed Animation


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