A mind-blowing new technology goes out on a limbic to eliminate transducers in the recording and reproduction of music.

Over the last 100 years or so, technology has steadily improved the quality of recorded music from scratchy, narrow-bandwidth wax cylinders to pristine high-resolution digital-audio files. But in all that time, the basic process of recording and playing music has remained essentially the same. It starts with a transducer, such as the diaphragm in a microphone or the pickup in an electric guitar, which converts acoustic sound to electrical signals. (Of course, electronic instruments such as synthesizers generate the electrical signals directly.) These signals are manipulated in various ways and stored in one form or another, delivered to consumers, and played back by speakers or  headphones , which have their own transducers that convert the electrical signals back into sound.

Might there be a better, more efficient way to record, deliver, and reproduce music? Recent advances in brain imaging point to some intriguing possibilities. Scanning technologies, such as positron-emission tomography (PET), reveal that incoming auditory signals are processed in specific regions within the temporal lobes of the cerebral cortex, which is the outer surface of the brain where most of the higher functions occur. The temporal lobes are on the sides of the brain just inside the skull near the top of the ears. (In highly paid rock stars, these regions are recognized as the "temperamental lobes.")

Another interesting result of this research indicates that the left hemisphere of the brain tends to dominate musical processing in trained musicians, whereas the right hemisphere dominates in untrained listeners. This makes sense when you consider that trained musicians can't avoid thinking analytically about any music they hear, while untrained listeners have an easier time simply enjoying the music. Naturally, the real story is much more complicated than this—many parts of the brain are involved in a complex relationship when processing music (or any other stimulus, for that matter)—but cognitive scientists are coming to understand the general patterns of neural activity that arise from musical perception.

In fact, it has been demonstrated that the same neural activity occurs when someone merely thinks of a musical phrase ("hears" music in their head). If the electromagnetic radiation generated by this imaginative neural activity can be isolated and analyzed, it might be possible to actually hear a person's musical thoughts!

This is the idea behind the Mindophone, a remarkable device invented by Dr. Spanky N. R. Ganglia of Callosum Corp US. The Mindophone consists of a headpiece, seen in the photo above (in which the subjects are obviously imagining Aretha Franklin's hit song, "Dendrite Woman, Dendrite Man"), with very sensitive electromagnetic detectors embedded throughout its inner surface. The headpiece is connected to a computer that analyzes the signals from the detectors and converts them into audio signals that can be played through any normal sound system.

Initial experiments have been very promising. When radio personality Don Thalamus tried it, researchers immediately heard "If I Only Had a Brain" issue from the speakers. In early experiments before his death in 2004, singer Ray Charles quickly conjured up "Georgia On My Mind" from his roots in the Cerebellum South. Other subjects easily produced a meditative test chant that Ganglia developed based on the movie The Karate Kid: "axon, axoff, axon, axoff..."

But what about the playback end of the signal chain? Ganglia surmised that the process might work in reverse, so he is now experimenting with broadcasting radio signals not in the audio range, but in the brain-activity range to stimulate the sensation of hearing music.

Ganglia started by recording a musical selection into the computer using the Mindophone, which outputs signals that correspond to the brain activity associated with hearing or thinking about that music. Then, instead of converting those signals into musical information, he broadcast the unprocessed signals from a specialized radio antenna, inducing the corresponding electrical activity in any nearby brains. As a result, those within range of the antenna hear the music "in their head."

The potential of this technology is astounding. Without the limitations of transducers, recorded music can have essentially infinite resolution. Even better, those who suffer from hearing impairment will be able to enjoy music fully without needing hearing aids or other assistive technologies. This is the dawn of a new era in music recording and reproduction that could be the Next Big Thing, especially among students smoking dopamine on their college hippocampus.