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Music and the Brain

Discover what happens when melody meets the mind in these entrancing lectures on the neuroscience of music.
Music and the Brain is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 81.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply Superlative This Course knocked my socks off, and it complements so well David Kung’s 2013 Course on ‘How Music and Mathematics Relate’ (#1373). AP moves around the studio, from camera to camera, with assuredness and aplomb. His delivery is clear and concise, using many research projects, from his own work and that of others, to illustrate his points. The excellent graphics and supporting musical examples go further to support his arguments and observations. I’ve been listening to all genres of music for sixty years, so I found these lectures to be quite informative. Some reviewers seem to have a concentration deficit. I, personally, always get the DVDs as they allow repeat watching and consolidation if in doubt. Also, some reviewers criticise the mention of Darwin several times. I really don’t know why, because the evolution of species must have had some effect on humanity’s understanding of musicality. I suspect that this is an area of research will will bear fruit over time. This is, without doubt, one of the best lecture series in TTC’s stable. The only downside is that it was made in 2015, and I’m sure that some amazing advances have been made since then. Accordingly, I enthusiastically encourage TTC to engage AP for a follow-up that illuminates the progress over the last near- decade. Those individuals who were battling to follow this Course need not purchase.
Date published: 2024-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Music and the Brain I'm glad I got the video as some of the sound examples and accompany pictures further enhance the experience
Date published: 2023-02-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Music and the brain I cannot review this course as it is a present to a music degree student who hopes to teach music once qualified. I found the delay in delivery quite stressful. I think a warning with confirmation of order, in capitol letters, might be a good idea. You must have many customers making contact about delivery and you must have some idea how long it will take. Once again- disappointed by your delivery time.
Date published: 2022-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent presentation! I found this to be an excellent presentation on the relationships among singing, music, and brain functioning.
Date published: 2022-06-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating but needs visuals. I’ve enjoyed listening to this series but the author makes frequent reference to various graphs and charts which of course we can’t see on the audio version. I downloaded the pdf guide but frustratingly it is just a transcript and does not include the graphs either. Therefore I would advise customers to buy the video.
Date published: 2021-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting topics I’m enjoying the range of topics and the lecturer’s presentation. Very interesting study of music in everyday life and how we perceive it.
Date published: 2021-12-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well organized, but rather technical I found this course to be well-organized and well-presented. Prof. Patel addresses many interesting aspects of the relationship of music to the brain, drawing on the rapid advancements in research during the past 20 years. The "downside" of the course, for me at least, was that the lecturer spends too much time discussing the technical aspects of how experiments have been designed and carried out. I would have preferred just the bottom line, rather than all the details of how the conclusion was reached.
Date published: 2021-09-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Inaccurate Course Title This course is called Music and the Brain, and I bought this course because I was interested in how the human brain functions when it is listening to music or performing music. But the course seldom discusses that question. Instead, the course primarily consists of scattershot discussions of a variety of other subjects: (1) whether primates, birds, and other species perceive specific features of music, (2) music's origins and whether and how our species' interest in music is a product of evolution, (3) whether and to what extent individuals from different cultures perceive features of music differently and use the same words to describe specific features of music, (4) the relationship between language and the music, (5) the way that the different languages spoken by particular composers (specifically, Debussey and Elgar) was reflected in differences in their music and (5) general music appreciation.. In the latter regard, the teacher frequently played excerpts of music and asked audience members to think about how they emotionally reacted to the music or pointed out specific features of the music. In this regard, the lecturer even had a contemporary composer write music that was played off and on during the course!!! What seemed to unite all these disparate subjects was the training and research interests of the professor:: e.g his Ph.D is not in neuroscience but in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and he said in the course that he was one of the authors of a paper that compared Debussy's and Elgar's music. In fact, the Professor discussed specific papers that he had authored or co-authored several times in the course, and the lectures seemed to be oriented around his research interests.. In any case, by my rough estimates, about 1/10th of the course discussed the brain's functioning when music is being heard or performed. The professor is obviously entitled to conduct research in the areas discussed in the course, and there may well be people interested in the subjects that this professor primarily chose to discuss. But the title of the course did not match these subjects and caused me to waste my time on subjects of no or little interest to me. Because this course did not deliver what it promised, I looked through the bibliography of Jeanette Norden's Teaching Company Course on Understanding the Brain and found an excellent book on music and the brain and learned the things that I had hoped to learn in this course by reading this book. So just as there are books that are focused on the subject of music and the brain, the Teaching Company could have a course that did so. Regrettably, this course did not. I have well over 100 teaching company courses, and this is only the third one that I have returned.
Date published: 2020-08-03
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Music is an integral part of humanity, from large societies to small tribes-but why? Music and the Brain probes this profound mystery, exploring the origins of music's emotional powers; the connections between music and language; the links between hearing, moving, remembering, and imagining; and beyond. This interdisciplinary course combines music and cognitive science to reveal the glory of this marvelous gift.


Aniruddh D. Patel

Music always has been, and always will be, part of the human condition.


Tufts University
Dr. Aniruddh D. Patel is a Professor of Psychology at Tufts University. He received his Ph.D. in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from Harvard University, where he studied with Edward O. Wilson and Evan Balaban. His research focuses on the cognitive neuroscience of music. Prior to arriving at Tufts, Professor Patel was the Esther J. Burnham Senior Fellow at The Neurosciences Institute, a scientific research organization founded by the late Nobel laureate Gerald M. Edelman. Professor Patel is the author of Music, Language, and the Brain, which won a Deems Taylor Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) in 2008. In 2009, he received the Music Has Power Award from the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function in New York City. Between 2009 and 2011, Professor Patel served as President of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition. He is an active speaker, having given many popular talks as well as scientific lectures. A major contributor to his field, his research has been reported in such publications as The New York Times, New Scientist, and Discover magazine and on National Public Radio. He has appeared in science documentaries, including The Music Instinct, which aired on PBS.

By This Professor

Music and the Brain
Music and the Brain


Music: Culture, Biology, or Both?

01: Music: Culture, Biology, or Both?

Explore the distinction between music and musicality. While musical styles change, musicality is the stable array of mental processes that underlie our ability to appreciate and produce music. Begin by looking at our capacity for relative pitch perception, asking why we excel over all other animals at this skill.

32 min
Seeking an Evolutionary Theory of Music

02: Seeking an Evolutionary Theory of Music

Darwin believed that musical behavior arose because it gave our early ancestors a biological advantage. But what advantage? Investigate Darwin's theory and other adaptationist explanations for the evolution of music. Then look at two alternatives: invention theories and gene-culture co-evolution theories.

32 min
Testing Theories of Music’s Origins

03: Testing Theories of Music’s Origins

Follow two lines of research that have put ideas about music's origins to the test. Start with studies of music perception in monkeys. Then turn to an ingenious experiment with young children, designed to evaluate the theory that musical behavior enhances social bonds between group members.

30 min
Music, Language, and Emotional Expression

04: Music, Language, and Emotional Expression

What makes a piece of music sound sad? Or joyful? Or angry? Why does music have expressive power beyond words? Explore the different ways that music conveys emotion. Test your own responses to musical passages composed especially for the course.

32 min
Brain Sources of Music’s Emotional Power

05: Brain Sources of Music’s Emotional Power

Delve deeper into the emotional reactions that people have to music. Feel the chills induced by certain musical passages and study the theories about where these powerful feelings come from. Then look at eight distinct psychological mechanisms by which music arouses emotions in listeners.

32 min
Musical Building Blocks: Pitch and Timbre

06: Musical Building Blocks: Pitch and Timbre

Focus on two processes that are fundamental to musicality: the perception of pitch and timbre. Pitch allows us to order sounds from low to high. Timbre lets us distinguish two sounds with the same pitch, loudness, and duration. Both pitch and timbre are constructed by the brain and have deep evolutionary roots.

31 min
Consonance, Dissonance, and Musical Scales

07: Consonance, Dissonance, and Musical Scales

What brain processes lead people to hear certain intervals as more consonant and others as more dissonant? Evaluate the major theories, one of which traces the phenomenon to the acoustic quality of the human voice. Then examine the structure of musical scales.

31 min
Arousing Expectations: Melody and Harmony

08: Arousing Expectations: Melody and Harmony

Melodies and harmonies combine pitches according to rules that we have internalized through experience. Listen to musical examples that demonstrate unresolved and resolved expectations. Consider the analogy to grammar in language, and search for a connection between music and language in the brain.

31 min
The Complexities of Musical Rhythm

09: The Complexities of Musical Rhythm

Begin your study of musical rhythm by distinguishing periodic from non-periodic rhythmic patterns. Periodicity can be thought of as beat; non-periodicity involves expressive techniques such as timing variations and phrasing. Close by asking whether composers write music in the rhythmic patterns of their native language.

32 min
Perceiving and Moving to a Rhythmic Beat

10: Perceiving and Moving to a Rhythmic Beat

Look beneath the surface of a seemingly simple feature of music: beat. Discover that beat perception in humans is exceedingly complex and incorporates six distinct criteria. Then survey animal studies to see if other species share our talent for getting the beat.

29 min
Nature, Nurture, and Musical Brains

11: Nature, Nurture, and Musical Brains

Use neuroimaging to investigate the ways that brains of musicians differ from those of non-musicians, asking whether the differences are due to nature or nurture - whether they are inborn or the result of experience. Pinpoint brain structures involved in such musical skills as absolute pitch.

31 min
Cognitive Benefits of Musical Training

12: Cognitive Benefits of Musical Training

Probe the ongoing research into the effects of musical training on the microstructure of the brain, which points to cognitive benefits in areas such as speech processing. Focus on how learning to play a musical instrument influences language acquisition and reading ability in children.

30 min
The Development of Human Music Cognition

13: The Development of Human Music Cognition

Not all aspects of musicality mature in the brain at the same rate. Trace the developing music faculty in infants, who have already learned to recognize their mother's speech patterns and singing while in the womb. Examine research showing that singing is more effective than speech in calming infants.

29 min
Disorders of Music Cognition

14: Disorders of Music Cognition

Turn to cases where music cognition breaks down in disorders such as dystimbria and amusia. General Ulysses S. Grant and novelist Vladimir Nabokov appear to have been affected by amusia. Investigate what they and others with similar deficits miss when listening to music, and explore the underlying cause.

30 min
Neurological Effects of Hearing Music

15: Neurological Effects of Hearing Music

Consider how the biological effects of listening to music might affect people with a wide range of medical conditions, from those undergoing surgery to premature infants, stroke victims, and Alzheimer's patients. Search for the biological mechanisms that make music a powerful balm for the mind and body.

30 min
Neurological Effects of Making Music

16: Neurological Effects of Making Music

See how actively engaging in music can enhance communication and movement in patients with a variety of neurological disorders, including aphasia, Parkinson's disease, motor disorders, and autism. Music's connection to multiple brain systems appears to underlie its beneficial effect on these conditions.

32 min
Are We the Only Musical Species?

17: Are We the Only Musical Species?

We may be the only animal that uses words, but we are not the only animal that sings. Survey music-making among other species, from fruit flies to gibbons, whales, parrots, and songbirds. Analyze the sound structure of their song to learn how it differs from ours.

28 min
Music: A Neuroscientific Perspective

18: Music: A Neuroscientific Perspective

Conclude the course by examining the biological significance of music though the lens of neuroscience. Look at five aspects of language that point to biological specialization in humans, and ask whether the same evidence also applies to music. How have we been shaped by nature to enjoy this very special type of sound?

32 min