February 10, 2007

More from Daniel Levitin

Daniel Levitin, neuroscientist at McGill University and professional musician, has been in the (science) news a lot lately. He just published This is your brain on music : the science of a human obsession, the New York Times wrote about him a few weeks ago (cogsci blogged; abridged article at the Toronto Star), a colleague just commented about his book on this blog ...

... and I've just heard him on two different podcasts.

WNYC's Soundcheck interviewed him on Dec. 27, 2006 in a show called Music on the Brain, and the News Hour reported on him on Feb. 5, 2007 in Music Illuminates Brain Function. Since we're talking about musical cognition, it's nice to hear these shows, as you can better understand what Levitin is talking about.

Both podcasts and the New York Times article talk about Levitin's ongoing research into our emotional responses to music. Quoting from the Times: "In April (2006) he took participants in a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert -- the conductor Keith Lockhart, five of the musicians and 15 audience members -- and wired them with sensors to measure their state of arousal, including heart rate, body movements and muscle tension." Levitin argues that we have a "music instinct", that "... music is an evolutionary adaptation: something that men developed as a way to demonstrate reproductive fitness. ... 'Music has got to be useful for survival, or we would have gotten rid of it years ago,' he said" (in the Times). Steven Pinker disagrees.

Either way, this is interesting research. Hear about it or read about it, but if you like music and / or the brain, pay attention.

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