Students contribute to immersive Pink Floyd exhibition

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Students and alumni from Goldsmiths have contributed their neuroscience skills to an interactive exhibition which mixes the music of Pink Floyd with immersive visuals powered by the brain activity of visitors.

A woman takes in the Brainstorm show, sitting on a bench in front of a widescreen image similar to the Northern Lights

A visitor at the Brainstorms show. Credit: Antonio Pagano

Current and former students from the Department of Computing and Department of Psychology collaborated with Pollen Music Group, a San Francisco-based creative studio, to support the data collection for the world-first show .

Held at Frameless, the UK’s largest permanent multi-sensory experience, Brainstorms takes visitors on a journey through four unique galleries. The experience combines the classic song The Great Gig In The Sky from Pink Floyd's 1973 album The Dark Side of The Moon Album, set to sky-themed visualisations of the human brain’s response to the music.

Dr Maria Herrojo Ruiz, Co-Director of the MSc in Computational Cognitive Neuroscience at Goldsmiths, selected a few students from this programme with expertise in neuroscience. The programme is co-directed by Dr Max Garagnani. These scholars were joined by additional students and alumni to record electrical brain activity from visitors to the exhibition which was then used to generate real-time visualisations which were screened in one of the show's galleries. 

Using Emotiv headsets, the group, joined by Dr Herrojo Ruiz on the opening night, recorded brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG) in more than 250 visitors who had signed up for the experience while they listened to the song in Dolby Atmos immersive audio through headphones. The individual emotional experiences of the visitors, as captured with EEG, were then translated using a computer algorithm into visualisations in one of the galleries. 

The brain activity data captured by the team reflected the excitement, interest and relaxation that the listeners experienced while listening to an excerpt from the album.

As a neuroscience student and a huge fan of Dark Side of the Moon, it was really cool to see how our mental status is influenced by Pink Floyd's masterpiece and how such complicated analysis is transferred to intuitive cloud-changing representation. It was an honour to be part of such a process

Ruiyao Luo, MSc Computational Cognitive Neuroscience

The exhibition is a joint project between Pollen Music Group and Richard Wright Music. The instrumental track featured throughout the experience was created by late Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright, with vocal composition by Clare Torry.

As well as contributing to the exhibition, ӣƵ students will also have an opportunity to study a 125-person EEG dataset collected in October by Pollen Music Group. 

Ruiyao Luo, MSc Computational Cognitive Neuroscience student and project collaborator, said: "Getting involved in this large, technical, aesthetic project is very exciting. I had a great pleasure to work with an amazing group of neuroscientists and share neuroscience knowledge with the public audience.

"I had a lot of fun playing with portable EEG headsets and see how people are enjoying the data collection process. The public audience are passionate, curious about neuroscience. Some of them also got so engaged with the music and really enjoyed the journey."

Eilidh Macdonald, Industry Employability Champion in the Department of Computing, said: “Goldsmiths works hard to build industry relationships to create opportunities for our students. We were delighted to be asked to be a partner on Brainstorms, with students and alumni facilitating the live brain activity monitoring”. 

“This collaboration builds on Goldsmiths’ strong reputation in the fields of immersive art, technology and neuroscience. It also displays the exciting opportunities available to our students and alumni, providing them with invaluable first-hand experience in industries they may want to pursue for their future careers."

Dr Herrojo Ruiz said: "Goldsmiths will also be partnering on future projects with Pollen Music Group using the EEG datasets, allowing our MSc students to apply their coding and methodological skills on these datasets."

The show ran throughout June 2024 on Friday and Saturday nights at Frameless in central London.