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Making music from neurons

Simón(e) Sun is changing the way scientists think about brain cells

Looking through a microscope, doctoral candidate Simón(e) Sun takes a tiny glass pipette and gently attaches it to a neuron in a petri dish. She’s taking recordings of synaptic activity, the electrochemical signals neurons use to communicate with each other. The data Sun gathers will be used to understand microprocesses in the brain.

It will also be turned into music.

Bridging science and art, Sun wrote a computer program that takes her data and converts it into song. And the ethereal MIDI sounds aren’t just nice to listen to — they can actually teach us a lot about how the brain works.

Sun is studying something called “homeostatic plasticity,” which is how neurons regulate their activity. Her research has broad implications for the field of neuroscience. It might eventually help researchers better understand neuropsychiatric conditions like autism or help build better brain-computer interfaces.

The Verge Science video team joined Sun in the Tsien Lab at NYU Langone Health’s Neuroscience Institute to record some neurons and create an original song. Check out our latest video to see what we learned and experience the sounds of synapses.