Music and the Brain

Music and the Brain
Course Trailer
Music: Culture, Biology, or Both?
1: 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
2: 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
3: 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
4: 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
5: 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
6: 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
7: 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
8: 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
9: 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
Aniruddh D. Patel

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

ALMA MATER

Harvard University

INSTITUTION

Tufts University

About Aniruddh D. Patel

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.

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