Music Makes Its Case for Neurological Respect

City Winery in Manhattan was a most appropriate venue to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function. And while not very much music was heard at the IMNF-sponsored forum, music’s impact on the brain was certainly in the air as neuroscientists, music therapists, and one rock music luminary covered the many ways in which music may affect brain development, cognition, and healing.

After all was said and done, however, one point seemed to hover above all the rest: the inability on the part of researchers to produce replicated studies that link the benefits of music to cognitive function.

Hart (left) and Gazzaley (right). Photo credit: Edward Bilsky

Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart (left) and neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley (right). Photo credit: Edward Bilsky

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Neuroscience and Society: Creativity, Genius and the Brain

Photo: spiral galaxy (08/14/13). Credit: NASA/ESO/VLT

Photo: spiral galaxy (08/14/13). Credit: NASA/ESO/VLT

From William Morgan’s sudden insight while staring at the stars that our galaxy must have a spiral shape to Leonardo da Vinci’s deep reimagining of the subject of “The Last Supper,”  stories describing “Aha!” moments and acts of genius can awe and inspire. What do scientists know about the minds of geniuses? Can they tell us anything about creativity, perhaps offer some sort of practice to help the rest of us extend our own creative wings?

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From the Archives: Music in Education

When I came to work for the Dana Foundation in 2006, one of the innovative projects it was funding was called Arts Education, a series of pilot programs teaching artists how to be effective teachers in the classroom. Like most of our seed programs, the funding was short-term, to get the programs up and running and give enough time to prove their worth so other, bigger grant-givers (or government agencies) would fund them.

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The Arts and the Brain

Arts brain aaasFrom left, Alan Leshner of AAAS, Christopher Tyler, Nina Kraus, and Gary Vikan answer audience questions.

Our brains glow with activity when we view or do art. Now that scientists can scan our brains in the act of observation and creation, what can they tell us about what is going on in there?

Quite a bit, we discovered during an evening of talk, food, music, and interactive art at the AAAS office in Washington, D.C., last Thursday. Christopher Tyler of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco presented images ranging from cave drawings to Jackson Pollock that illustrated the idea of embodied cognition.“You can’t appreciate the work unless you feel it in your body,” he said.

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Live Chat Tomorrow: “Do the Arts Make Us Smarter?”

At 3pm EST, Thursday, March 14, Science magazine will be running a free live chat called Do the Arts Make Us Smarter?, exploring the effects of arts education on the brain. Moderated by Science staff writer Emily Underwood, guests will be Daniel Levitin, who runs the Lab for Music Perception, Cognition, and Expertise at McGill University, and Keith Oatley, a psychologist at the University of Toronto who studies the effect of fiction on our emotions.

What sorts of questions will they answer? How about: Does learning the violin actually increase IQ or translate to better grades? Can drawing help students learn geometry? What other benefits can the arts provide, both in and beyond the classroom?

For those of you can’t tune in live, it will be archived on that same web page.

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