Polyphonic music (music consisting of several instruments playing in parallel) is an intuitive way of embedding multiple information streams. The different instruments in a musical piece form concurrent information streams that seamlessly integrate into a coherent and hedonistically appealing entity. We explore polyphonic music as a novel stimulation approach for use in a brain-computer interface. In a multi-streamed oddball experiment, we had participants shift selective attention to one out of three different instruments in music audio clips. Each instrument formed an oddball stream with its own specific standard stimuli (a repetitive musical pattern) and oddballs (deviating musical pattern). Contrasting attended versus unattended instruments, ERP analysis shows subject- and instrument-specific responses including P300 and early auditory components. The attended instrument can be classified offline with a mean accuracy of 91% across 11 participants. This is a proof of concept that attention paid to a particular instrument in polyphonic music can be inferred from ongoing EEG, a finding that is potentially relevant for both brain-computer interface and music research.
This is a joint project with Matthias Treder, Daniel Miklody, Irene Sturm, and Benjamin Blankertz from Neurotechnology Group, Berlin
Institute of Technology.