Perception of music and dimensional complexity of brain activity

N. Birbaumer, W. Lutzenberger, H. Rau, C. Braun, G. Mayer-Kress

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The nonlinear resonance hypothesis of music perception was tested in an experiment comparing a group of musically sophisticated and a group of less sophisticated subjects. The prediction that weakly chaotic music entrains less complex brain wave (EEG) oscillations at the prefrontal cortex was confirmed by using a correlational dimension algorithm. Strongly chaotic (stochastic) and periodic music both stimulated higher brain wave complexity. More sophisticated subjects who prefer classical music showed higher EEG dimensions while less sophisticated subjects responded with a drop in brain wave complexity to rhythmical weakly chaotic music. Subjects ratings of perceived complexity of the musical pieces followed mathematical (objective) structure of the music and did not reflect the changes in brain wave complexity. The results are interpreted in the context of an associated (Hebbian) network theory of nonlinear brain dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-278
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General
  • Applied Mathematics

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