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Sheet Music As An Effective Study Guide
February 24, 2020

Think of the human brain as a piano with the keys representing different parts of the brain, and the pressure applied by the pianist’s fingers representing the outside stimuli that promote brain functions. According to information provided by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Rensselaer), this is the approach being taken by researchers there as they seek to create new data models to better understand how the brain and human cognition work.

With support provided by a new grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Sergio Pequito, an assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering at Rensselaer, believes that just as notes and harmonies can be mapped onto sheet music, so too can the brain’s complex dynamics be transcribed into new data models.

“We have showed that, by thinking like this, there was a lot of activity in the brain that we were able to mimic and capture,” Prof. Pequito explained. “We believe that we can use the math and models we have developed to capture intrinsic features that justify how the brain behaves over space and time.”

Prof. Pequito and his team are trying to provide insight into how a healthy brain functions, as well as how one with a neurological disease may behave. To do this, the researchers plan to use publicly available brain signal data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to improve the models they have built. Within the context of his piano analogy, Prof. Pequito explained that just as a pianist who hits the wrong key may create a dissonant noise, the models developed by his research team will show when something is a bit off in the brain’s activity.

Prof. Pequito is of the opinion that just as industrial and systems engineers develop tools to analyze how complex systems interact, this type of approach to better understanding the brain’s complex activities can provide new insights regarding the relationships between functions like attention, learning, memory, decision-making, and language.

“We have all sorts of tools that we, as industrial engineers, can use,” Prof. Pequito noted. “Now, we are working to improve them so we can provide new insights for the neuroscience and medical community.”

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