Neurological Sonata: The neurology of music. A creative research essay for a Biology/Neurology course at the University of Chicago. (May be used for any mental, neurology, psychology course!)

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It has often been wondered what it is about music that elicits certain emotions and behaviors in human beings. Philosophers and biologists have inquired the question for centuries, noting that humans are universally attached to music. Some scientists wind up that music’s authority may be a probability happening, arising from its ability to hijack brain systems built for other purposes such as language, emotion and movement. As Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker notably put it in his 1997 book How the Mind Works [1], music is “auditory cheesecake,” a complexity made to tickle the areas of the mind that evolved for more important functions. But as a result of this, music seems to offer a novel system of communication rooted in emotions rather than in meaning. Recent data show, for example, that music dependably conveys certain sentiments: what we feel when we hear a piece of music is remarkably similar to what everybody else in the room is experiencing.

Promising data also indicates that music brings out predictable responses across cultures and among people of broadly changeable musical or cognitive abilities. Even infants and people who cannot distinguish pitch enjoy music’s emotional effect. “Certainly music seems to be the most direct form of emotional communication,” claims renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks of Columbia University. “It really seems to be as important a part of human life and communication as language and gesture.” [2]Throughout history, people have attempted to explain music’s influence over the human character. Music has been labeled everything from an endowment of the heavens to an instrument of the Devil, from an addition of mathematics to a side effect of language processing. Charles Darwin was eminently bemused by music’s omnipresent existence around the world: man’s fondness for music, he wrote in 1871 in The Descent of Man, “must be...