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From NPR's July 31, 2023 transcript and podcast These scientists explain the power of music to spark awe:

"It modulates levels of dopamine, as well as opioids in the brain. Your brain makes opioids," (Levitin1) says.

Neurons in the brain even fire with the beat of the music, which helps people feel connected to one another by literally synchronizing their brain waves when they listen to the same song.

"What we used to say in the '60s is, 'Hey, I'm on the same wavelength as you man,'" Levitin says. "But it's literally true — your brain waves are synchronized listening to music."

I can imagine that if one checked nerves that went to the feet or fingers one might see evidence that one is thinking about tapping them and generating impulses in the spine in some sort of a sub-threshold way. But for a traditional EEG monitoring brain waves is there really a significant correlation between waves recorded from one listener to those of another? Is it strong enough to be visible to an untrained observer - in other words do the waves actually line up? What does this brain wave synchronization look like if plotted?


1Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist at McGill University who scans the brains of people while they listen to tunes.

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When I worked at an audio lab a few years ago, it was explained to me that EEG has sufficient resolution to reconstruct speech (albeit at a low fidelity) heard by the subject.

Frequency following response (FFR) ... is an evoked potential generated by periodic or nearly-periodic auditory stimuli. Part of the auditory brainstem response (ABR), the FFR reflects sustained neural activity integrated over a population of neural elements ... It is often phase-locked to the individual cycles of the stimulus waveform and/or the envelope of the periodic stimuli. ... The recording procedures for the scalp-recorded FFR are essentially the same as the ABR. A montage of three electrodes is typically utilized: An active electrode, located either at the top of the head or top of the forehead, a reference electrode, located on an earlobe, mastoid, or high vertebra, and a ground electrode, located either on the other earlobe or in the middle of the forehead. ... FFRs have the potential to be used to evaluate the neural representation of speech sounds processed by different strategies employed by users of cochlear implants, primarily identification and discrimination of speech.

This is a routine procedure that I performed dozens of times at the lab: The subject is fed (using in-ear speakers) some repetitive beat for (say) 25 minutes - they can watch a show (closed captioned) or even fall asleep during the process. Here is an example of what it looks like (from Kraus & White-Schwoch, 2017):

enter image description here

For a review of the capabilities of EEG FFRs with speech and music see Krizman & Kraus (2019). A demonstration of this effect involving multiple subjects seems gimmicky to me, as the "brainwaves" synchronize to the stimulus, not the other subjects. EEG FFRs are typically used to study audio processing in the brain, for applications such as helping the hearing-impaired.

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    $\begingroup$ OK I've got the picture. If for example one gets a routine EEG at a clinic, the electrode configuration and signal processing and output data the clinician sees might not be optimal for separating out an FFR from all the other recorded activity, (and of course the procedure would exclude the auditory stimulus) but the FFR measurement protocol can still be considered an EEG in the general sense. Despite the other comments, this is surprising to me at least, and perhaps was to those who first discovered and explored it. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 13, 2023 at 23:28
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    $\begingroup$ This just in: August 15, 2023 New York Timess Scientists Recreate Pink Floyd Song by Reading Brain Signals of Listeners It's a net of implanted electrodes so doesn't count as a new answer, but feels sufficiently relevant as a comment journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/… (there be reconstructed audio recordings in both links) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 16, 2023 at 3:32

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