A Blog by Carl Zimmer

The Phantom Piano

When the brain goes awry, it can reveal to us some clues to how it works in all of us. In my latest “Matter” column for the New York Times, I look at a rare but fascinating disorder that causes people to hallucinate music. How someone could imagine that a piano was playing nearby–or a marching band or church choir–may tell us something about how our brains make sense of the world by making predictions about what comes next. Check it out.

4 thoughts on “The Phantom Piano

  1. My MIL’s hearing became impaired a few years ago, and last year she started complaining about music nobody else could hear. It was hard to convince her it was an hallucination, because she thought only crazy people have those, and she didn’t want to believe it. Fortunately, I found a book on the subject, which she read.

  2. I certainly predict music I have heard heard before during live concerts; not very much from recordings. Sometimes I’ll seem to hear the music, i.e., in my head, sometime later but that is certainly not an hallucination as I known it is just in my head.

    I find it all quite enjoyable. I am sure I would enjoy it even more if my in-the-head music were of a bit better quality.

  3. Carl,

    On 2/15, I had a vomiting situation, and my wife called 9-1-1. Turns out to be cancer in brain. I’ll explain details to you at some point as I get much better every day, and espicially across your artical in Natl Geo.

    More details to come as i improve, and I’d probably have you sign the book.



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