Some scientist suspected we were a musical species. Im actually amazed at how much of the brain is recruited for musical experience. The ability to appreciate music is defining quality of our humanity.
Music as medicine
In music theraphy for Parkinson’s disease, the rhythm of the music is crucially important. people with Parkinson’s mis-judge time grossly and have difficulty coordinating speech with their movements, so they tend to stutter or stumble, or just come to a stop. While the music lasts, it gives them precisely what they lack, which is tempo and rhythm and organized time. The music doesn’t have to be familiar or particularly emotionally evocative for them. For people with Alzheimer’s, it’s a different story. For this patients, the evocativeness of music is primary–the music has to recall emotions and scenes and memories they seem to have lost. Even for those with advanced Alzheimer’s who have lost language, music can grab them or calm and stimulate them. It’s enormously powerful.
Blindness seems to enhance many people’s appreciation of music. And many deaf people are able to analyze very complex experiences in the peripheral visual field, which sighted people can’t do, I think whatever sense one loses, there’s a sort of compensation. People used to say it was anecdotal, but in fact it’s not. You can see it scans how, when one part of the brain isn’t getting it’s normal input, it won’t be wasted. It will be pressed to another use.
One fascinating things is the reality of imagination. Imagining music can activate parts of the brain almost as vividly as listening to music. But our enormous sensitivity to music also has certain danges, including this catchy tunes that infuratingly repeat in our heads. These musical hallucinations, or earworms, are nearly imposible to get rid of. They evaporate eventually, but probably the best relief is lstening to other music.
The mystery of creativity
Scientists can confirm that musically creative people continually has tunes in their heads, and that they’re incessantly playing with musical themes. But I don’t think neuroscience can do more than confirm what talking to any composer would tell you. We don’t know about the genesis of creativity. While it may start with conscius, deliberate attention, things tend then to be forgotten, and get incubated, out of sight and inaccessibly, perhaps to emerge years later. And we don’t know what’s happening in those years underneath.
An emotional response to music is very strong and almost universal, yet there are a few baffling exceptions. Sigmund Freud, for example, lacked appreciation for music altogether. I actually think something was missing in Freud’s life, and perhaps his analytical communications would have been richer with music. But he’s a puzzle because, at least from the few things he says, one response because it mystified or angered him.