Brain study to used Pink Floyd classic to understand music’s impact on the mind

Dolby Laboratories, along with music technology company Pollen, and Richard Wright Music announced today the opportunity for 100 lucky music lovers and adventurous souls to peek into their own minds as they listen to one of Pink Floyd’s iconic tracks in Dolby Atmos. 

To coincide with the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s: Dark Side of the Moon, 100 participants will have the opportunity to have their brain activity recorded while listening to the Dolby Atmos mix of Pink Floyd’s The Great Gig in the Sky, written by Keyboardist Richard Wright. The Brainstorms Project, a partnership of Pollen and Richard Wright Music, will conduct the study at Dolby’s location in the heart of Soho. 

Whilst we all naturally share the emotions that music evokes, the Brainstorms Project further enhances this perception by creating artistic and intuitive visual representations of how the brain responds when experiencing music in Dolby Atmos. A completely new way to create and experience music, Dolby Atmos goes beyond ordinary listening by immersing participants in the music, revealing details with unparalleled clarity and depth. Participants will feel like they are inside the song as the music and vocals are heard and felt all around them, drawing them into the musical experience. 

In addition to a summary of their brain activity during the session, the Brainstorms Project will turn each participant’s brain data into beautiful, visualised artwork at the end of the recording session. The combined brain activity of all 100 participants will be transformed into a stunning, large-scale visualisation to be showcased at a public event, ‘Brainstorms’, in a leading immersive venue in London.

Rick Wright’s composition The Great Gig in The Sky, will be used as the stimulus for the project. As the song contains no lyrics and instead uses singer Clare Torry’s voice as an instrument, this allows for an uninterrupted focus on the brain’s response to the music itself. Using electroencephalogram (EEG) technology, provided by leading neurotech company Emotiv Inc, the process will capture the subtle dynamics of neural activity, giving a snapshot of how the mind reacts to the song.

Jane Gillard, Dolby’s Head of Music Partnerships for Europe, said, “We’re so excited to be working with Pollen and Gala Wright on the Brainstorms project.  It’s an honour to be part of this special anniversary and take this iconic piece of music to new heights. A key focus for Dolby is delivering extraordinary experiences, so giving fans a chance to elevate their music listening and see how it affects the mind is amazing. We can’t wait to see the results come together at the art-installation.”

Gala Wright, Creative Director, said, “When I came to Pollen in 2021, I was thinking about interesting ways to celebrate Dark Side of The Moon in its 50th year. We are guardians of Richard Wright’s legacy but having taken no part in creation of the music, we were sensitive to propose ideas which did not comment on the album’s meaning or artistic contribution. Producing an elegant visual which directly represents how people are affected while listening to the music, seemed a perfect way to shine a light on one of the album’s most loved tracks. We are very grateful to have the support of Richard’s former band mates to pursue this project with The Great Gig in the Sky, and hugely excited to begin the first stage with Dolby.” 

Richard Warp, CTO & Creative Director at Pollen, said, “The journey Pollen have taken with Richard Wright Music over the last 12 months has been exhilarating as we dive into a new frontier of aesthetic exploration, which is centred on the deeply personal experience of sound and music.  We are excited to show how, through readily available, non-invasive EEG technology – we can transform brain data from participants into an artistically stunning interpretation that can be easily accessed, understood, and appreciated.” 

At Pollen, we are constantly striving to push the boundaries of what is possible in the immersive arts, and Brainstorms is no exception. I feel privileged and fortunate to be working with Gala Wright as Creative Director, and Dolby’s support will be invaluable as we enter this first phase of the project.”

Those interested in taking part can sign up by visiting the Brainstorms Project at from 8 September 2023, and the 100 selected candidates will be asked to attend on a day between 2-6 October. The brain capture will take roughly half an hour to complete. Each participant will receive a summary report and visualisation of their own unique brain response as art, produced by The Brainstorms Project. All data captured by Pollen will be anonymised and used solely for the Brainstorms Project with participants’ written consent.

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About the Author

Loves long walks along the beach, holding hands and romantic 80's power ballads, partial to electronic music and likes to make the odd mix or two.