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nano ears & bio-sonification

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

Hey there!

Lately we've been receiving many emails concerning bio-sonification, where to start regarding sonifying, etc., so, here I am with some information that might help?

Data Sonification allows researchers/artists to work with data from a course of time, say on Climate over a year long period in the Arctic and juxtapose that with Climate data from the same region from 10 years ago- translate the data into musical notes through something like MatLab (it sounds easier than it really is) and work from there.

Bio-Sonification can be similar OR work with devices that can track various information such as, conductivity.

The paper, The Electrical Conductivity of Animal Tissues Under Normal and Pathological Conditions1 found that the living cell, whether it exists alone or as an element in a complex organism, possesses a certain store of potential energy which is manifested by variations in polarity and by action currents; that variations in the permeability of the living cell to the electrically charged elements of the fluid which surrounds it parallel variations in irritability in response to stimulation; that factors which suspend or abolish irritability also suspend or abolish in permeability. Every activity of living tissue is accompanied by electrical currents; and many activities are also initiated by electrical currents.


Adamatzy's paper (Adamatzky, A. On spiking behaviour of oyster fungi Pleurotus djamor.Sci Rep8,7873 (2018)., observes: Electricity is one of the key factors shaping growth and development of fungi. Polarity and branching of mycelium are induced by electric fields2. Hyphae are polarised in electric fields3: sites of germ tube formation and branching, the direction of hyphal extension and the frequency of branching and germination could be affected by an electric field. Fungi also produce internal electrical currents and fields. Electrical current is generated by a hypha: positive current, more likely carried by protons4, enters tip of a growing hypha5,6. Current density reported is up to 0.6 μA/cm2 4. Electrostatic repulsion of charged basidiospores propulses the spores from alike charged basidium7,8. The electrical current can be involved or associated with translocation of material in pair with hydraulic pressure9. There are evidences of electrical current participation in the interactions between mycelium and plant roots during formation of mycorrhiza10.

In 1976 Slayman, Long and Gradmann discovered action potential like spikes using intra-cellular recording of mycelium of Neurospora crassa11. Four types of action potential have been identified: (1) spontaneous quasi-sinusoidal fluctuations of 10–20 mV amplitude, period 3–4 min, (2) as previous but shorter period of 20–30 sec, (3) cyanide induced oscillations of progressively lengthening period, starting with initial depolarisation of 20–60 mV, and (4) damped sinusoidal oscillations with amplitude 50–100 mV, period 0.2–2 mins. Twenty years later, Olsson and Hansson demonstrated spontaneous action potential like activity in a hypha of Pleurotus ostreatus and Armillaria bulbosa; they conducted intra-cellular recording with reference electrode in an agar substrate12. They shown that resting potential is −70 to −100 mV, amplitude of spikes varies from 5 to 50 mV, duration from 20 to 500 ms, frequency 0.5–5 Hz.

This is an amazing paper if you are interested in Fungi

The Nano Ear

that can ‘listen’ to microbes but these frequencies still need to be brought into the human audible spectrum. Studies were done at the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich and the ‘nano ear’ was created.

The sensor consists of a single gold nanoparticle held in suspension by “optical tweezers”. By precision tracking of its position, displacements of the nanoparticle induced by extremely weak pressure waves can be detected. Indeed, the device is now so sensitive that it can “hear” the noise generated by the smallest motor in the world – the mechanochemical rotary engine that drives the flagellum of motile bacteria13.

The devices we work with and build detect micro-fluctuations in conductivity, between 1,000 to 100,000 of a second and translate this data (in realtime) to MIDI and/or CV out which enable humans to 'hear' fungi, plants, etc. We have been working on various modifications to the code, and the circuit build.

Another consideration is OpenBCI which tracks brain waves.

2. Gow, N. A. Polarity and branching in fungi induced by electrical fields. InSpatial Organization in Eukaryotic Microbes(IRL Press 1987).

3. McGillivray, A. M. & Gow, N. A. Applied electrical fields polarize the growth of mycelial fungi.Microbiol.132, 2515–2525 (1986).

4. McGillviray, A. M. & Gow, N. A. The transhyphal electrical current ofNeuruspua crassa is carried principally by protons.Microbiolo133, 2875–2881 (1987).

5. Gow, N. A. Transhyphal electrical currents in fungi.Microbiolo130, 3313–3318 (1984)..

6. Harold, F. M., Kropf, D. L. & Caldwell, J. H. Why do fungi drive electric currents through themselves?Exp. mycology9, 3–86 (1985).

7. Savile, D. Spore discharge inBasidiomycetes: a unified theory.Sci.147, 165–166 (1965).

8. Leach, C. M. An electrostatic theory to explain violent spore liberation byDrechslera turcicaand other fungi.Mycol. 63–86 (1976).

9. Rayner, A. D. The challenge of the individualistic mycelium.Mycol. 48–71 (1991).

10. Berbara, al. Electrical currents associated with arbuscular mycorrhizal interactions.New phytologist129, 433–438 (1995).

11. Slayman, C. L., Long, W. S. & Gradmann, D. “Action potentials” in Neurospora crassa, a mycelial fungus.Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)–Biomembr.426, 732–744 (1976).

12. Olsson, S. & Hansson, B. Action potential-like activity found in fungal mycelia is sensitive to stimulation.Naturwissenschaften82, 30–31 (1995).

13. Scientists Create World's Tiniest Ear Jan. 13, 2012

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