This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession

Date

September 12, 2006

Speaker

Daniel Levitin

Affiliation

McGill University

Overview

A fascinating exploration of the relationship between music and the mind—and the role of melodies in shaping our lives

Whether you load your iPod with Bach or Bono, music has a significant role in your life—even if you never realized it. Why does music evoke such powerful moods? The answers are at last becoming clear, thanks to revolutionary neuroscience and the emerging field of evolutionary psychology. Levitin unravels a host of mysteries that affect everything from pop culture to our understanding of human nature, including:

Are our musical preferences shaped in utero?
Is there a cutoff point for acquiring new tastes in music?
What do PET scans and MRIs reveal about the brain’s response to music?
Is musical pleasure different from other kinds of pleasure?

Levitin explores cultures in which singing is considered an essential human function, patients who have a rare disorder that prevents them from making sense of music, and scientists studying why two people may not have the same definition of pitch. At every turn, this provocative work unlocks deep secrets about how nature and nurture forge a uniquely human obsession.

Speakers

Daniel Levitin

http://ego.psych.mcgill.ca/levitin.html/Dr. Daniel Levitin earned his B.A. in Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Science at Stanford University, and went on to earn his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Oregon, researching complex auditory patterns and pattern processing in expert and non-expert populations. He completed post-doctoral training at Stanford University Medical School (in Neuroimaging) and at UC Berkeley (in Cognitive Psychology). He has consulted on audio sound source separation for the U.S. Navy, and on audio quality for several rock bands (including the Grateful Dead and Steely Dan), record labels, and served as one of the “Golden Ears” expert listeners in the original Dolby AC3 compression tests. He worked for two years at the Silicon Valley think tank Interval Research Corporation. He taught at Stanford University in the Department of Computer Science, the Program in Human-Computer Interaction, and the Departments of Psychology, Anthropology, Computer Music, and History of Science. Currently, he is an Associate Professor of Psychology, Behavioural Neuroscience, and Music at McGill University. He is the author of the forthcoming “This Is Your Brain On Music.”.