Sunday, 24 July 2011

Music for sleeping cats

Alain Destexhe from the Unité de Neurosciences, Information & Complexité at the CNRS near Paris produced music from the neuronal activity of a cat. By assigning spikes of activity from certain neurons to specific notes, he was able to sonify the animal's mental activity.

Waking cacophony, sleeping harmony
It is interesting to see how repetition of single notes or short phrases rises more readily during REM sleep than in wakefulness or even shallow sleep. Might it be because during dreams, we are more inclined to go with the flow and accept absurdities as reality, than if we are lucid?

Though not the point of the experiment, the sonification helps to illustrate the difference between mental states. The music itself does not go any further on its own. The research was published in The Journal of Neuroscience in June, 1999.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Collective Animal Behaviour

From flocks of birds to schools of fish and locust swarms, Iain Couzin (assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University) outlines the mathematical models his group used to identify the behaviour of large groups of individuals when acting as part of a greater collective. There is an interesting sweet spot between attraction and repulsion. While we don't want to be stepping on each other, we can't stray too far or else we may be left behind. He also illustrates why larger groups are less vulnerable to attacks than individuals.

Taken from the Radiolab Blog.