How to record sounds inside the body?
April 14, 2015 12:02 PM   Subscribe

What professional medical equipment, techniques and possibilities exist to record sounds inside the body?

I'm a composer and sound artist, working with a choreographer. We want to record sounds from inside the body, in different states, resting, moving, stressing, etc. The recorder can be inside, or outside the body. The sounds will be used as-is and also processed.

We will be working with medical professionals to assist us, but don't know who or what to ask them yet. We're currently in research phase so I thought to ask here, any medical or surgical metafilters got any experience, ideas, hacks, suggestions?

I'm aware of digital stethoscopes and the possibility to swallow mics, and using contact mics on the skin. I've found a lot of interesting research and projects that convert or interpret data from the body into sound, but I want the actual raw sounds, as far as possible, from different parts of the body. The brain is of special interest. Whats the sound of one brain thinking?
posted by gmm to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Doppler echocardiography will get you some pretty spiffy sounds from the heart. Echocardiography is an ultrasound of the heart, and the Doppler mode is designed to measure blood velocities. You'll hear a nice beat, with swishing sounds.
posted by telepanda at 12:42 PM on April 14, 2015

Not a direct answer, but you could look into the equipment that Mickey Hart used to record his son's in-utero heartbeat for Music to Be Born By. I believe the liner notes that came with the album describe the process, but I don't have them handy at the moment.
posted by alms at 12:48 PM on April 14, 2015

They've been using a fetal doppler to hear my baby's heartbeat from way back when it was just a nugget. Maybe it could be hacked to listen to other things?

When I had an echocardiogram, they also listened to blood flowing through the heart (spoiler: it was squishy and gross), but I don't now how that was done or if it's different from a fetal doppler.

The brain thinking... Sound is produced from a vibration. If it's not vibrating, there's no sound. So far what we know of thinking is synapses firing electrically or chemically. To record the vibrations caused by chemical or electrical impulse... you'd need some drastically sensitive equipment. Like on the order of molecules or electrons bouncing around. Which is why they measure it in other non-sound ways (neuroimaging).
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:52 PM on April 14, 2015

To what extent do you need to record the sounds inside the body as opposed to sounds generated from activity inside the body? For the brain, there are well established processes to record electrical activity from the brain. You could then run this raw data through Max/MSP or another system to produce sounds based on the patterns you pick up.
posted by zachlipton at 1:36 PM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Matmos did an album using a similar idea: A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure. Might give you further ideas.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:37 PM on April 14, 2015

Another similar concept album: Venetian Snares + Hecate's Nymphomatriarch
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:57 PM on April 14, 2015

Along the zachlipton's line of thought: here is a slide show with examples of neural responses to sound (2nd or 3rd slide if I recall). The lab is run by Nina Kraus, if that was something that you were interested in.

Your ears also produce sounds (otoacoustic emissions). It's one of the ways newborns have their hearing screened. Audiologists work with OAEs, but don't generally listen to them...a research group might be a better way to go for that (a nearby university with an audiologyor hearing science program would be a good place to start).
posted by ghost phoneme at 2:09 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone, this is wonderful and lots of great directions.

zachlipton, electrical (or any kind of) signal is also interesting. For the sound we're hoping to get the actual bodily sounds (related to the brain / body activity at that moment), and avoid interpretational sounds generated from data. But I don't know yet what is really possible, we might have to go for a combination of real sounds processed and triggered by real signals, so I'm looking into that too, thank you, its very helpful.
posted by gmm at 1:34 AM on April 15, 2015

You might also look at the output of Electromyography (EMG) Tests. I may be misremembering, but I believe that when my son got this test the tech actually listened to the output on headphones in addition to looking at the wave form on a screen.
posted by alms at 6:54 AM on April 15, 2015

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