Spatial Sound

Physiology and Psychology Of Listening

Research in the physiology and psychology of listening aims at a granular understanding of the processes that are going on inside the listener, and the way listening affects our mental and physical states.

Spatiality of sound is among the most subtle and refined information that we are able to perceive. It is a driver for highly complex neural processing, interaction between the left and right hemispheres of the brain and coordination of the neuro-motoric system of the body, directly affecting the regulation of muscle activity, balance and posture (The Ear and the Voice, Tomatis 1988). The entire body is involved in the process of listening that ultimately leads to the conscious perception of sound and its spatial characteristics.

This programme is focussed on gathering and interpreting quantifiable data of the body and the brain in response to spatial perception of sound, such as can be obtained via EEG-devices and other biometric sensors - for example heart rate, heart rate variability and galvanic skin response among others; as well as qualitative data, gathering first-hand experiences through experimentation with specific modes of physical and psychological interaction with sound.

Through analysis of the collected data, the programme examines the measurable impact of spatial listening and investigates the possible benefits for health, wellbeing and social interactions. The data will contribute to a broader study that examines the impact of our sound spaces on creative abilities, concentration, social intelligence and happiness. In this light, special attention in the programme goes out to research such effects on children.

As our understanding of the physiology and psychology of listening grows, we can start to build a semantics of spatial sound that more clearly and precisely defines the underlying patterns we identify. For example, effective frequencies, rhythms and sonic textures expressed in a spatial sound environment can have specific outcomes within the listener: such as memory recall, associative visualisation and creative problem solving. Specific modalities of sound could thus encourage personal growth, such as through meditation practice or cultivating awareness; restorative and palliative care to provide reduction of stress, pain and anxiety; and even medical applications with audible sound can be envisioned - such as treatment of depression, OCD, ADHD and trauma reversal.

→ Key Questions

What happens inside our body when we listen? How is sound information processed and stored within the body and the brain?

How do the acoustics of the human body relate to the acoustics of our spaces - and can effective resonance between body and space be established through sound?

What is the relation between sound, vibration and our physical and mental states?

Are there clearly repeatable, discernable patterns in our responses to sound that indicate specific functions for listening?

What are the aesthetics and new practices with sound that could emerge from such understanding?

Can we heal, or even cure diseases, by means of audible, spatial reception of sound ?

→ Creators and Contributors

The Physiology & Psychology of Listening programme is open to creative and scientific research proposals from a range of contributors at different stages in their career. All fields of research are welcome to apply to the programme, including but not limited to:

  • PhD candidates and PostDoc researchers in the field of neuroscience
  • Cognitive and behavioural psychologists
  • Sound & music therapists
  • Clinical physicians and medical practitioners
  • Experimental sound & media artists with an interest working with biometric technology and data
  • Meditation practitioners
  • Laboratories & academic institutions that conduct scientific research in the field of sound, physiology and perception