Thursday, 15 November 2012

Hip-Hop in the Service of Science: Freestyle On the Brain

A few years ago some researchers from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders did a study where they hooked some jazz musicians into fMRI machines and had them do some musical improvisation to see what their brains looked like when they were improvising as opposed to when they were playing rehearsed, learned musics. The results were interesting.

Interesting enough that it caught the attention of hip-hop artist Mike Eagle and hip-hop “enthusiast and producer” Daniel Rizik-Baer1. They contacted one of the researchers with an interesting proposal: the original study had been about improvising music. What about improvising lyrics?

Soon twelve hip-hop freestylers including Mike Eagle were hooked up (one at a time) to fMRI machines to see what happened in their brains when they went off-script and started improvising rhyming lyrics.

Researcher Ho Ming Chow uses an fMRI machine to scan the brain of hip-hop artist Mike Eagle.

Researcher Ho Ming Chow uses an fMRI machine to scan the brain of hip-hop artist Mike Eagle.
Daniel Rizik-Baer

THIS IS SCIENCE! And it’s completely awexome. There are tons of ramifications for studies like this; seeing how the creative process happens in the brain can lead to all sorts of applications for developmental disabilities and brain damage.

If you like, you can read the whole report here: Neural Correlates of Lyrical Improvisation: An fMRI Study of Freestyle Rap

You really should read it, because Mr. Mike Eagle is one of the co-authors! Yes, that’s right: Mike Eagle co-authored a scientific paper. Unbelievably cool.

Read more about this study at these websites:

Science kicks total ass. Never doubt it.

I wonder what my brain looks like when I’m doing my type of improv.

1 Discovery News

Categories: Music, Science.

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