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Dance-inspired brain wave research is a hit with audiences


“The possibility that you can pinpoint how different mentalities, and creativity, are exhibited within the brain is immense,” Kopteva said in an interview with UH’s Center for Arts Leadership (tCAL). | Courtesy of Anastasiya Kopteva

A student is bridging the gap between art and science.

Using dance and electroencephalogram (EEG) caps, marketing senior Anastasiya Kopteva created research that attempted to present EEG through sound. Kopteva’s presentation won the Audience’s Favorite Award at the 2016 Undergraduate Research Day.

“Generally, EEG has been looked at visually, and we proposed a methodology to be able to listen to it in a clinical setting,” Kopteva said.

EEG is a brainwave-pattern test that can detect any electrical abnormalities within the brain. It’s done through the use of electrodes and small metal disks with thin wires that are placed onto the scalp, which will then send signals to a computer that is able to display the data.

Although the data is usually expressed in a visual way, Kopteva used sound instead.

“I think the audience really liked the interactive element,” Kopteva said. “A little kid asked me if he had brainwaves, too.”

Kopteva said that her presentation took a year and a half to develop, and that her work as a research assistant for engineering professor Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal helped prepare her for this presentation. Her job in the lab came through dance.

When I was working on my project, ‘Your Brain on Art,’ I wanted to include students that were not engineers,” Contreras-Vidal said. “I asked one of my colleagues from the dance department and they recommended Anastasiya.”

Kopteva, a dance minor, was invited to observe a dancer whose brainwaves were projected on the wall behind her while she performed a piece. The observers then looked at the differences between the dancer imagining the piece and performing it.

Kopteva was first hired for a summer fellowship, but her hard work landed her a job as a research assistant. “Your Brain on Art” first began as an experiment, but has now mostly become data analysis.

She has become the undergraduate student leader for the program.

James Rosengren, Blaffer Art Museum deputy director, said that showcasing exhibits like these will take Blaffer in the direction he has envisioned.

“I’ve been passionate about how the museum can build a dialogue with different academic disciplines on campus,” Rosengren said.

Kopteva also shares Rosengren’s passion of connecting art with other fields. Rosengren said that Kopteva began a program called CotA Connects, which linkes students in the College of the Arts to those in different areas of study.

Kopteva recently choreographed a musical for Opera Leggera, a musical company in Kingwood, Texas. She plans on dancing with the company again in December for the holiday show, which is set to take place at the Nathaniel Center.

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