Playing a cello (inside an MRI scanner)

fMRI-CellistPerforming a quasi-real-time fMRI scan of a performing cellist presents considerable problems to researchers. Aside from the extreme lack of space, if the cello had any metallic components it could present a danger anywhere near the über magnets of an operational MRI machine.

Such considerations have prompted a research team from the Input Devices and Music Interaction Laboratory (IDMIL) of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (CIRMMT) at the Schulich School of Music, of McGill University in the city of Montreal, Southern Canada, to devise an fMRI-compatible optically-sensed cello and miniaturised bow.

“An opto-acoustic cello has been designed to investigate the neural correlates of cello performance using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Through the design of specialized optical sensors, for the first time, we are able to synchronously capture a cellist’s acoustic performance and musical gestures within the MRI scanner.”

Researchers Avrum D. Hollinger and professor Marcelo M. Wanderley will present their project (lecture #7727) at the Optical Sensors session of the IEEE SENSORS 2013 Conference, which will be held in Baltimore, November 4th – 6th.

● The paper can be read in full here.

● The photo above shows a cellist, with the cello, inside the machine. A larger photo of the cello itself (outside an MRI machine) is available here:

NOTES: You might think that the somewhat extreme noise associated with MRI machines …

… might be distracting to a cello player who was attempting to perform inside it – future work may establish if this is a surmountable concern or not.

● Many and various other Improbable fMRI items can be found here