I posted this week two articles on Brain Music Therapy (BMT): “When she listens to her brain (through music), her brain will recognize it (the pattern) and her brain will become what we call ‘entrained,'” Peter explained. “It will start to fall into that same frequency and she will be able to make more relaxing brain waves”.

Scientists record the relaxing brain waves of the subject, and convert them into an audio frequency. When the music on the activating tape works, the subject begins to relax. With repeated listenings, the music decreases stress, insomnia, etc. in the subject. Now, it is well-known that music alters human mood and feeling. But, BMT adds more to this: the music contains a neurological record which is isomorphic with the previously recorded relaxing brain-waves. In other words: the subject relaxes while listening to BMT music only if the brain ‘recognizes’ the neurological trace in the relaxation music. To determine this scientifically the subject’s brain waves are measured on an EEG. Normally, the criterion we employ is to simply ask someone how he or she feels. But, this is clearly not suitable for scientific measurement.

BMT is philosophically interesting. Can we ascribe psychological verbs to inanimate objects like body organs? What does it mean to say that the ‘the brain recognizes the music’, or, more remotely, ‘the brain recognizes itself’ (through the music)? BMT holds that the subject relaxes when the brain recognizes a neurological trace in the music. This implies that there is universal parallelism between the physical and the mental. Must this be so?

If BMT music relaxes me, BMT holds that there must be a neurophysiogical accompaniment. Is this correct? It is logically possible that whatever the reading of the EEG, I may not feel relaxed. It is also logically possible that I may feel relaxed without there being any significant EEG reading. Furthermore, it is conceivable that there are no neurophysiological accompaniments at all: ‘it is imaginable that my skull should turn out empty when it was operated on’ (OC, 4). It is perfectly imaginable that someone says that they feel relaxed while listening to BMT music, but the EEG does not confirm this, nor does it reveal any specific neurological activity at all. There is no conceptual connection between neurophysiological mechanisms and the application of the phrase ‘is relaxed’. Hence, there need not be any neurological difference between someone who is relaxed and someone who is not, nor between someone who listens to BMT music and is relaxed, and someone who listens to BMT music and is not relaxed.

This conclusion is unsettling, since it upsets our conception of causation. First, it is incompatible with an extremely successful principle of the neurosciences. Second, the general connection between neurophysiological mechanisms and mental phenomena is part of our world-view, and resists abandonment at the risk of disintegrating our belief-system. On the other hand, to deny a connection between neurophysiological mechanisms and mental phenomena does not imply that we could doubt that normal human beings have brains.

There are two further questions that I want to raise but cannot answer at present:

(1) How does the BMT music encode a neurological trace? Music has symbolic content, a neurological trace does not. On the other hand, a neurological trace is specified in terms of the EEG reading, which has symbolic or representational content.

(2) Is Wittgenstein’s distinction between ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ sense relevant here? (PI II 216) Is the word ‘recognize’ being used in the primary or secondary sense in the quote above from Peter? Is he attributing recognitional capacity to the brain in a derivative – analogical (non-literal) –  sense?