An LSD brain wave and sound art hackathon


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How can a sine wave link neuroscientists and sound artists?

In 2012, Imperial College London were awarded a research grant from the UK government’s Medical Research Council to set-up the first clinical trial in the UK to investigate the safety and efficacy of psychedelics as a support option for treatment-resistant depression. The team around lead researcher Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris showed that patients who had been depressed for on average 18 years, showed improvements in their symptoms after receiving only two oral doses. Three months on, 42% were still in complete remission. Other studies in the US have suggested that psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy may be effective for treating end-of-life anxiety, alcohol and tobacco dependence.

In order to understand the neural mechanism underlying these profound changes in patient’s health it is of paramount importance to look at what is happening in the brain while being on the drug. Thus, in another landmark study, Dr. Carhart-Harris gave LSD to healthy volunteers while scanning their brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG). They found that LSD has the potential to break through rigid thought patterns, suggesting that brain circuits that are overactive and reinforced in depression could be loosened under the drug. But there is much more to discover…

AXNS Collective are proposing a participatory event in partnership with Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris and Music Hackspace to take the MEG brain wave data of this study outside of the lab. The essence of such brain wave data can be understood as a mixture of dynamic sine waves changing over time. We want to draw on the expertise of those in another discipline who work with sine waves in a very different context: sound artists. For our hackathon, we are inviting sound artists to work alongside neuroscientists and data analysts, to explore the brain waves in novel ways and to create mind altering soundscapes, aural installations and musical compositions from extracted features of the psychedelic brain data. We also welcome multi-media artworks that combine aural elements with visual or haptic ones.

The projects encourages scientists to experiment with innovative and novel analysis techniques with the aim to expand the way we usually look at brain wave data. The idea is to provide the creative space for the scientist, with the unconventional input from artists, to work in an unconstrained manner outside of the lab and to turn the results into something other than a number. To access someone’s state of consciousness with the current research methods available remains a challenge. Our pioneering project provides the opportunity to think outside of the box about how we can capture someone’s subjective and potentially healing mind-altering psychedelic journey.

The hackathon will be a two-day event over the weekend of the 18/19th March in Central London (West Central) with Dr. Carhart-Harris introducing the dataset and research. The interdisciplinary 5 teams (consisting of 1 sound artist grouped with 2-4 neuroscientist/data scientists) will then spend the remainder of the time working on their responses to the brief. A concert-like presentation of the created work will conclude the event in the evening of 19th March (6:30 pm).

If you are interested to be a hacker yourself that weekend and get the opportunity to explore someone’s psychedelic state through sound art, please visit our ‘Call for Participants’ website for further details (application deadline: 28th February).

The Team

AXNS Collective is a not-for-profit, curatorial collective that explores intersections between art, neuroscience and technology (axnscollective.org).  The London-based collective is comprised of four women working across the arts and sciences: Rachel Bedder, a computational neuroscientist, Romy Lorenz, a cognitive neuroscientist and neuro-technologist; Miranda Marcus, a graphic designer and digital anthropologist and Rachel Stratton, an art historian and curator. The collective programme panel discussions, curate exhibitions, carry out workshops in museums and schools, and commission collaborative projects between artists, neuroscientists and technologist. Since 2012 AXNS was supported by various funders, amongst them are the Wellcome Trust, the Arts Council, and the Wates Foundation.

Team photo

From left to right: Miranda Marcus, Rachel Bedder, Romy Lorenz, Rachel Stratton

Robin Carhart-Harris is Head of Psychedelic Research in the Division of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London. He studies the brain effects of LSD, psilocybin and MDMA using multi-modal neuroimaging techniques. Most recently he has completed the first phase of a clinical trial looking at the potential of psilocybin to treat treatment-resistant depression. He holds a MA in Psychoanalysis from Brunel University and a PhD in Psychopharmacology from University of Bristol.

The hackathon will be supported by Robin’s 3 PhD students Mendel Kaelen (music and psychedelics), Leor Roseman (visual hallucinations), and Chris Timmermann (DMT).

RobinCH

Robin Carhart-Harris

Music Hackspace is a platform and space bringing together people passionate about music, art, innovation and technology. We organise weekly open events featuring new content in artist presentations, demos, workshops, premieres and events engaging with sound, music, art, music technology, new instruments, computer music, electronics and all kinds of noisy ideas. Aimed to catalyse the development of music technology projects and sound art practices in a dynamic and friendly atmosphere, this programme brings together an existing-growing community and audience passionate about music, art, innovation and technology. MHS’s aim is to spread knowledge, foster innovation and create unique opportunities by gathering skilled professionals, hobbyists and curious minded people together, facilitating exchanges between skills and disciplines, from technology development to sound art installations and music production.

Credits: Some material of the video is from “The Acis Tapes”, dir. Georgina Cammalleri, 2014.

Budget outline

We are excited about the innovative sound art pieces that will be produced during the course of this hackathon, and can only make this happen with your support. Your donation would help fund the running costs for the hackathon (such as paying for the venue, catering, refreshments, staffing and equipment) and allow us to deliver a radical concert of these dynamic soundscapes. To say thank you for your support we have a range of rewards, including the unique opportunity to attend the concert, receive a private EEG scan and of course an exclusive AXNS badge! Any additional donations we receive will help fund future events of this kind. We hope you will come on this journey with us.

Perks Available

Concert ticket: You will receive a ticket for the exclusive event in which the soundscapes will be presented that were created during the hackathon. The event will be on 19th March at 6:30 pm at a prestigious central location in London (West Central) to be revealed post funding.
MP3 recording: You will receive an exclusive MP3 recording of the soundscapes created during the hackathon.
Print of LSD brain wave signals:  You will receive a colourful physical print of brain wave signals under the influence of LSD.
Private EEG scan: You will receive a 1-hour long private EEG session with neuroscientist Romy Lorenz at Imperial College London. You will be explained details about the methodology, ask any questions that interest you and receive a colourful physical print of your own EEG signal.
AXNS badge and tote bag: You will receive a badge and/or tote bag with our wonderful AXNS logo.

Pledge £5

Thank you for your support. You will also be entered into a prize draw to win two tickets to the concert on Sunday  (the chances are quite high on this one!)

Pledge £10

Thank you for your support! We will thank you on the AXNS website and send you a badge with the AXNS logo.

Pledge £15

Thank you for your support! We will thank you on the AXNS website and send you a badge with the AXNS logo and a tote bag.

Pledge £25

LSD signal print out , tote bag + badge

Pledge £30 (limited 12)

1x tickets to concert, tote bag, badge

Pledge £55 (limited 8)

2x tickets to concert, tote bag, badge

Pledge £75

MP3 recording, LSD signal print out, tote bag, badge

Pledge £100

Private EEG scan + MP3 recording

Pledge £500 (1 available)

Private EEG scan + 10 tickets to concert

Pledge £1500 (1 available)

Private EEG scan + MP3 recording + Print + Private living room concert (in London) of one of the sounds artists performing their LSD brain wave/sound art piece and Q&A with psychedelic researchers of Imperial College London.

Select your pledge amount

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CONTINUE
  • 9 Backers
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    You will also be entered into a prize draw to win two tickets to the concert on Sunday (so far only not many backers on this pledge - the chances are quite high!)

  • 8 Backers

    Thank you for your support! We will thank you on the AXNS website and send you a badge with the AXNS logo and a tote bag.

  • 10 Backers

    LSD signal print out , tote bag + badge

  • 12 Backers
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    1x tickets to concert, tote bag, badge

  • 8 Backers
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    2x tickets to concert, tote bag, badge

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    MP3 recording, LSD signal print out, tote bag, badge

  • 2 Backers
    All gone!

    Private EEG scan + MP3 recording

  • 1 Backer
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    Private EEG scan + 10 tickets to concert

  • Backers
    Limit of 1 — 1 remaining

    Private EEG scan + MP3 recording + Print + Private living room concert (in London) of one of the sounds artists performing their LSD brain wave/sound art piece and Q&A with psychedelic researchers of Imperial College London.

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General Overview

This Campaign has ended. No more pledges can be made.

  • 9 Backers
    All gone!

    You will also be entered into a prize draw to win two tickets to the concert on Sunday (so far only not many backers on this pledge - the chances are quite high!)

  • 8 Backers

    Thank you for your support! We will thank you on the AXNS website and send you a badge with the AXNS logo and a tote bag.

  • 10 Backers

    LSD signal print out , tote bag + badge

  • 12 Backers
    All gone!

    1x tickets to concert, tote bag, badge

  • 8 Backers
    All gone!

    2x tickets to concert, tote bag, badge

  • Backers

    MP3 recording, LSD signal print out, tote bag, badge

  • 2 Backers
    All gone!

    Private EEG scan + MP3 recording

  • 1 Backer
    All gone!

    Private EEG scan + 10 tickets to concert

  • Backers
    Limit of 1 — 1 remaining

    Private EEG scan + MP3 recording + Print + Private living room concert (in London) of one of the sounds artists performing their LSD brain wave/sound art piece and Q&A with psychedelic researchers of Imperial College London.