Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Do you have musical expectations?

Jazzsinger Bobby McFerrin demonstrates 'musical expectations' at the World Science Festival:

More fragments can be found here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do we have a music instinct?

Another short entry to refer you to an interesting initiative of the North-American tv station PBS on music and science. See their website.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is beat induction special? (Part 6)

This week a brief update consisting of a short interview with Ani Patel (Senior Fellow at the Neuroscience Institute in San Diego, US) at a conference workshop at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) talking about Snowball: the dancing cockatoo that so gracefully helped boosting the visibility of research in the neuroscience and cognition of music. The other video  shows Snowball (and his owner Irene Schulz) at the World Science Festival. Is Snowball listening or imitating?

However, see earlier entry on beat induction for a critique.

ResearchBlogging.orgHoning, H., Ladinig, O., Háden, G., & Winkler, I. (2009). Is Beat Induction Innate or Learned? Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1169 (1), 93-96 DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04761.x

ResearchBlogging.orgPatel, A., Iversen, J., Bregman, M., & Schulz, I. (2009). Experimental Evidence for Synchronization to a Musical Beat in a Nonhuman Animal Current Biology DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.03.038

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New evidence for the Mozart effect?

Last week an interesting study was published (online) that provides evidence that music exposure facilitates neuroplasticity in rats. While I feel quite uncomfortable with using animals for these studies (especially if you read the explicit method sections of these kind of neurobiological papers :-\) , the results could well contribute to a better insight in how music might be functional in the neurohabilitation of humans.

About sixty rats were divided in four groups, two of which had callosotomy performed on them: a small section of the brain was removed just after they were born, an area that is considered important for e.g. spatial memory. The research elaborates on earlier studies that showed music to have an effect on hippocampal neurogenesis, as well as facilitated spatial memory (e.g., Kim et al., 2006).

The authors conclude that an enriched sound environment -exposing rats to piano music- helps the recovery from neural damage. Rats with a damaged brain showed signs of recovery after about fifty days of listening to Mozart piano sonates for about 12 hours a day. Compared to rats that also had brain damage, but that did not listen to music, they performed significantly better in a spatial memory task (finding their way in a maze) and in their emotional reactivity (using a marble burying task).

While it remains unclear whether sounds other than music would have the same effect, the study is a striking example of research showing that music has a larger role in shaping the brain than previously thought.

ResearchBlogging.orgAmagdei, A., Balteş, F., Avram, J., & Miu, A. (2009). Perinatal exposure to music protects spatial memory against callosal lesions International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience DOI: 10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2009.08.017

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why does a melody stick in your mind? (Part 2)

Studying earworms (or ‘brainworms’ as Oliver Sacks names them) is a topic that would make an ideal PhD thesis: it is a striking, yet unexplained phenomenon, and a research question that is around for quite a while, and (embarrassingly for music cognition) without a sufficient answer. One of the reasons might be - comparable to studying déjà vu’s - that to think of an experiment that can capture the phenomenon when it occurs, is quite a challenge. And, as far as I am aware, no explanation has appeared, as yet, in the scientific journals.

Nevertheless, there is something to say about the structural aspects of the melodies that tend to function as earworms. Most sticky songs are relative simple in terms of their harmonic structure, but have a striking moment - the hook of the song. It is the point in the music where something catchy happens. It is precisely the moment where you would start singing a song from memory (see more at [1]). That said: this is just an after-the-fact interpretation, not a explanation.

P.S. Interested in earworms? Follow the discussion at Facebook.

[1] Dutch tv item (with subtitles) on the earworm.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Wat is het belang van muziek? [Dutch]

In de afgelopen weken ontving ik deze reactie van een collega op een onderzoeksvoorstel:
“[..] wat dat betreft staat Pinker's argument nog steeds overeind: als er vanaf morgen geen muziek meer is, dan gaat het leven van mensen gewoon door; mocht er bijvoorbeeld geen taal meer zijn, dan staat ons leven op z'n kop, en zal overleven/reproductie een stuk lastiger zijn.”
Ik zal deze positie gebruiken als strawman (want de kritiek was goed bedoeld, ter voorbereiding op nog scherpere kritiek) voor een lezing/debat dat gepland staat voor 12 oktober a.s. in Spui25: "De stelling van..". Ik zal daar proberen de onmogelijke, en tegelijkertijd - althans in mijn ogen - belangrijke positie verdedigen van het belang van muziek: Music Matters, de titel van deze blog.

Mocht je voorstellen voor munitie hebben :-) .. reageer gerust... meer op Facebook.