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Music and Neuroscience by Michael Pelster The Bizarre Tony Ciccoria Pp. 3-8 of Musicophilia Video of Sacks discussing this incident Evidence that even non-musicians have extraordinary musical recall Pp. 30-40 of Musicophilia

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music and neuroscience

Music and Neuroscience

by Michael Pelster

the bizarre
The Bizarre
  • Tony Ciccoria
  • Pp. 3-8 of Musicophilia
  • Video of Sacks discussing this incident
evidence that even non musicians have extraordinary musical recall
Evidence that even non-musicians have extraordinary musical recall
  • Pp. 30-40 of Musicophilia
  • “musical imagery has a range no less varied than the visual” (30)
  • “Since the mid-1990s, studies carried out by Robert Zatorre and his colleagues, using increasingly sophisticated brain-imaging techniques, have shown that imagining music can activate the auditory cortex almost as strongly as listening to it. Imagining music also stimulates the motor cortex, and conversely, imagining the action of playing music stimulates the auditory cortex.” (31-32)
evidence that even non musicians have extraordinary musical recall 2
Evidence that even non-musicians have extraordinary musical recall (2)
  • The White Christmas’ effect
  • “When the then universally known Bing Crosby version of the song was played, some subjects ‘heard’ it when the volume was turned down to near zero, or even when the experimenters announced they would play the song but never turned it on. Physiological confirmation of such ‘filling in’ by involuntary musical imagery has recently been obtained by William Kellely and his colleagues at Dartmouth, who used functional MRI to scan the auditory cortex while subjects listened to familiar and unfamiliar songs in which short segments had been replaced by gaps of silence. The silent gaps embedded in familiar songs were not consciously noticed by their subjects, but the researchers observed that these gaps ‘induced greater activation in the auditory association areas than did silent gaps embedded in unknown songs, this was true for gaps in songs with lyrics and without lyrics.” (33)
evidence that even non musicians have extraordinary musical recall 3
Evidence that even non-musicians have extraordinary musical recall (3)
  • Musical imagination governed not only by the auditory and motor cortices but also the frontal cortex (choosing and planning) (33)
  • “We are on much richer, much more mysterious terrain when we consider tunes or musical fragments we have perhaps not heard or thought of in decades, that suddenly play in the mind for no apparent reason . . . Sometimes the reason or association is obvious, or seems so.”
  • Personal examples and 3-question test
evidence that even non musicians have extraordinary musical recall 4
Evidence that even non-musicians have extraordinary musical recall (4)
  • Purpose of internal musical imagery?
  • “‘It alleviates boredom, makes . . . Movements more rhythmical, and reduces fatigue.’ It buoys the spirits, is intrinsically rewarding. Music drawn from memory, he writes, ‘has many of the same effects as real music coming from the external world.’ It has the additional bonus of drawing attention to otherwise overlooked or repressed thoughts, and in this way may serve a function similar to that of dreams. All in all, Storr concludes, spontaneous musical imagery is basically ‘beneficent’ and ‘biologically adaptive.’ (39)
a true curiosity
A True curiosity
  • “Our susceptibility to musical imagery indeed requires exceedingly sensitive and refined systems for perceiving and remembering music, systems far beyond anything in any nonhuman primate. These systems, it seems, are as sensitive to stimulation from internal sources—memories, emotions, associations—as to external music. A tendency to spontaneous activity and repetition seems to be built into them in a way that has no analogue in other perceptual systems. I see my room, my furniture every day, but they do not re-present themselves as ‘pictures in my mind.’ Nor do I hear imaginary dog barks or traffic noises, or smell aromas or imaginary meals cooking, even though I am exposed to such perceptions every day” (39-40).
medical applications of music
Medical applications of music
  • Alzheimer’s
    • video
  • Personal Story
  • Parkinson’s Disease
    • two videos
relative pitch vs absolute pitch
Relative pitch Vs. absolute pitch
  • Relative Pitch (my definition): the continuum of abilities to ascertain intervals, melodies, and harmonies through reference to other pitches
  • Demonstration
  • Absolute Pitch (my definition): the (much more unusual) ability to identify pitches or produce pitches without any external referent
more on absolute pitch
More on absolute pitch
  • Not due to differences in the auditory system
  • Related to musical experience (certain pitches more easily identified than others)
  • Speakers of tonal languages
  • Genetics?
  • There appears to be a critical period (between approximately ages 2-5) in which absolute pitch can be acquired through early musical training. However, early musical training does not guarantee acquisition of this ability.
  • Unlearning theory?
  • Two videos
neurological differences between musicians and non musicians
Neurological differences between musicians and non-musicians
  • pp. 94-97
  • Using MRI morphometry, Gottfried Schlaug at Harvard and his colleagues made careful comparisons of the sizes of various brain structures. In 1995, they published a paper showing that the corpus callosum, the great commisure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain, is enlarged in professional musicians and that a part of the auditory cortex, the planumtemporale, has an asymmetric enlargement in musicians with absolute pitch. Schlaug et al. went on to show increased volumes of gray matter in motor, auditory, and visuospatial areas of the cortex, as well as in the cerebellum. Anatomists today would be hard put to identify the brain of a visual artist, a writer, or a mathematician—but they could recognize the brain of a professional musician without a moment’s hesitation” (94)
neurological differences between musicians and non musicians 2
Neurological differences between musicians and non-musicians (2)
  • “The anatomical changes they observed with musicians’ brains were strongly correlated with the age at which musical training began and with the intensity of practice and rehearsal. . . . Using five-finger piano exercises as a training test, [Alvaro Pascual-Leone at Harvard] has demonstrated that the motor cortex can show changes within minutes of practicing such sequences. Measurements of regional blood flow in different parts of the brain, moreover, have shown increased activity in the basal ganglia and the cerebellum, as well as various areas of the cerebral cortex—not only with physical practice, but with mental practice alone” (94-95).
neurological differences between musicians and non musicians 3
Neurological differences between musicians and non-musicians (3)
  • “Can musical competence be seen as a universal human potential in the same way as linguistic competence? There is exposure to language in every household, and virtually all children develop linguistic competence (in a Chomskian sense) by the age of four or five. This may not be the case with regard to music, since some households may be almost devoid of music, and musical potential, like other potentials, needs stimulation to develop fully. In the absence of encouragement or stimulation, musical talents may not develop. But while there is a fairly well-defined critical period for language acquisition in the first years of life, this is less so for music” (95-96).
the mozart effect
The Mozart effect???
  • Nature article by Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky in 1993 claimed that listening to Mozart boosted spatial reasoning scores.
  • Pop science appropriated this study by claiming that listening to Mozart had a mystical effect that increased intelligence (not true) more than transiently (also not true).
  • Study has not met the test of time. Current theories link the temporary effect on visuo-spatial reasoning to improvements in mood/arousal.
copyright controversies and neurology
Copyright controversies and neurology
  • Let’s listen to some music.