Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Nerve: The Brain on Music

The Nerve: The Brain on Music. 2008. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 27 November 2008. <>

This is an awesome, little interactive site by CBC. It's part of the main page for the CBC2 show 'The Nerve', a series about Music and the Human Experience the first episode of which is about Music and the Brain featuring our 'good friend' Daniel Levitin ( This part of the site, however, consists of a brief introduction and an image of the brain. This diagram of the brain is meant to show the areas where music is processed. When you pass the mouse over this image, different sections of the brain are highlighted, and when you click on them, you get a brief description of the processes that occur there. This kind of mapping was made possible with the development of functional brain imaging in the 1990s. The brain map includes the Prefrontal Cortex, Nucleus Accumbens, Amygdala, Hippocampus, Auditory Cortex, Sensory Cortex, Motor Cortex, Corpus Callosum, and Visual Cortex. The accompanying info bits mention activities such as spatial navigation, memory, pleasure, tone perception, and so on.

This site is especially useful for its interactive quality. This allows for overlaps in areas of the brain to be understood in an enhanced way. This is important in that we are shown that different structures in the brain are not mutually exclusive. It's still somewhat deceptive in light of new findings on brain plasticity, which suggest that functions can be relocated to different parts of the brain in the case of damage or other influences. In actuality, we're not given any reason why we should be interested in the areas of the brain that process music. What good does it do to know the computational centres activated when the brain is 'on music'? (I would also be interested to know the impetus behind this reference in particular, 'on music'). The explanations of the different brain areas are also extremely brief, often unsatisfyingly so, but one point was particularly interesting. During musical improvisation, functions that suppress inhibitions must be activated so that free creativity can take place. I'm sure this is something closely linked to social factors. For a very basic understanding of which parts of the brain are stimulated by music listening, it's a fun tool.

No comments: