Monday 11.07.2022 10:00 — 11:30
Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, ArtLab Foyer

Mindvoyage l Randy McIntosh: "Maybe We Can Access the Brain’s Hidden Repertoire Through Music"

Randy McIntosh
Randy McIntosh playing the guitar

The Mindvoyage lectures feature prominent scholars from different disciplines including the humanities, biology, neuroscience and physics. On Monday, July 11, 10 a.m. CET, the Mindvoyage lecture series features Randy McIntosh, Director Institute for Neuroscience & Neurotechnology, Simon Fraser University, Canada.

The lectures are presented by Lucia Melloni, Research Group Leader, Research Group Neural Circuits, Consciousness, and Cognition on behalf of the ARC-COGITATE Consortium.


The lecture will take place in a hybrid fashion. To register for the on-site event in our ArtLab foyer, please write to

To register for the Zoom webinar, please register here.



Maybe We Can Access the Brain’s Hidden Repertoire Through Music

Music is culturally ubiquitous, supporting social and personal functions. Unlike language, music listening and performing seem to engage several brain networks. The broad engagement opens the possibility of identifying key personal brain signatures that reflect the capacity of brain systems to work together. This potential meshes well with the evolving theory of Structured Flow on Manifolds (SFM), where the manifolds define potentials and the flow represents actual expressions of network dynamics. My talk will lay the foundation for these ideas and the link to music listening. When we consider music as having similar SFM properties as the brain, a connection may be formed by linking the music and brain flows. I will present some preliminary data from EEG, where we start linking flows using Hidden Markov modelling.  I will finish with ideas for an extension to ageing and dementia.

About the speaker

My early memories include coming up with a theory for how diseases spread and designing rockets so that my brotherand I could replicate Evel Knievel stunts. Fortunately, that design never made it to production.

I got inspired to study the brain in my first year Psychology class, taught by Rob Sutherland at the University of Lethbridge, which was followed by a class on Brain and Behaviour from Ian Whishaw. I was hooked on neuroscience. Shortly thereafter I was fortunate to get a student position with Rod Cooper at the University of Calgary. There, I started learning about “neuroimaging” with the autoradiographic 2-deoxyglucose method, where we studied the relation of learning and visual system function in rats. It was shortly around this time where my interest in exploring brain networks, rather than regions, emerged. This led to a parallel development of analytic tools, which formed the basis of my PhD work done with Francisco Gonzalez-Lima at the University of Texas at Austin. The methods continued to evolve when I did my postdoctoral fellowship with Barry Horwitz and NIH, where we moved the network analysis tools to human neuroimaging (see our paper for a narrative of this journey).

The analytic methods were never developed in a theoretical vacuum. Early on in my neuroscience career, I drew inspiration from the seminal works of Cajal, Lashley, Hebb, and Luria, who all emphasized aspects distributed functions of the brain in creating the mind. Most of my work has taken these ideas and developed them through empirical investigation to form new perspectives on brain networks. I now benefit from frequent interactions with many colleagues in hammering out these ideas, including Giulio Tononi, Olaf Sporns, and my close collaborators Petra Ritter and Viktor Jirsa. Many of the discussions happened as part of the long running Brain Connectivity Workshops. Indeed, one of these meetings led to a pub chat with Viktor the spawned to development of TheVirtualBrain, the most recent example of novel tools to study brain network function.

While I am a scientist, that’s not all I do. My early curiosity of science happened at the same time as I developed interest in music. I am drawn to music from a deeply personal space and find it a wonderful complement to my scientific aspirations. Like other forms of art, music and science overlap so much that I often find insight from considering music as a way to understand how the brain works. If you go through my social media posts, you’ll find my posts are split between my scientific and my musical interests. There is other stuff I post, but we won’t talk about that here :) .


The online event will be held on Zoom. Pleaso note the Data Protection Information Regarding Zoom Webinars.