Music and the Brain

Watch Music and the Brain

  • 2015
  • 1 Season

Music has been an integral part of humanity since the earliest civilizations. From tribal drumming to classical orchestras and modern pop tunes, music has the power to evoke emotions and influence our behavior. But have you ever wondered what happens in our brains when we listen to music? This is exactly what the course Music and the Brain from The Great Courses aims to explore.

Led by renowned neurologist and musician Dr. Aniruddh Patel, Music and the Brain is a multi-disciplinary course that delves into the science behind our musical perception. The course is spread across 18 lectures, each of which is around 30 minutes long, making it a comprehensive and engaging course that can be completed at your own pace.

The course begins by introducing the fundamental components of music and the basic neuroscience concepts that underlie our musical processing. Dr. Patel explains the concept of rhythm and how our brains process complex beat patterns. He discusses the tonal structure of music, including scales, chords, and keys, and how we perceive the relationships between different notes. The course also delves into the cultural and historical factors that have shaped the development of musical styles and genres.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the course is the discussion of how music can affect our emotions and mental state. Dr. Patel explains the concept of musical tension and release and how it can lead to a sense of pleasure or arousal in listeners. He also discusses the relationship between music and memory, highlighting the ways in which music can trigger powerful emotional memories.

The course also explores the different brain areas and neural pathways that are involved in musical processing. Using studies and experiments, Dr. Patel shows how different regions of the brain, such as the auditory cortex and the motor system, work in tandem to produce musical perception and motor responses. He also discusses the potential therapeutic applications of music, including how it can be used to improve motor skills and communication in individuals with neurological disorders.

One of the standout lectures of the course is on the topic of musical creativity. Dr. Patel discusses the different processes involved in creating, performing, and appreciating music, and how these processes relate to the brain's reward circuitry. He talks about the importance of music education in fostering musical creativity and highlights the ways in which technology is providing new avenues for musical expression.

Overall, Music and the Brain from The Great Courses is a fascinating and accessible course that provides an in-depth look into the science of musical perception. Dr. Patel is an engaging and knowledgeable presenter, and the course is well-structured and easy to follow. Whether you're a musician, a music lover, or just curious about the workings of the human brain, this course is sure to provide you with new insights and a deeper appreciation for the power of music.

Music and the Brain is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (18 episodes). The series first aired on July 24, 2015.

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Music: A Neuroscientific Perspective
18. Music: A Neuroscientific Perspective
July 24, 2015
Conclude the course by examining the biological significance of music though the lens of neuroscience. Look at five aspects of language that point to biological specialization in humans, and ask whether the same evidence also applies to music. How have we been shaped by nature to enjoy this very special type of sound?
Are We the Only Musical Species?
17. Are We the Only Musical Species?
July 24, 2015
We may be the only animal that uses words, but we are not the only animal that sings. Survey music-making among other species, from fruit flies to gibbons, whales, parrots, and songbirds. Analyze the sound structure of their song to learn how it differs from ours.
Neurological Effects of Making Music
16. Neurological Effects of Making Music
July 24, 2015
See how actively engaging in music can enhance communication and movement in patients with a variety of neurological disorders, including aphasia, Parkinson's disease, motor disorders, and autism. Music's connection to multiple brain systems appears to underlie its beneficial effect on these conditions.
Neurological Effects of Hearing Music
15. Neurological Effects of Hearing Music
July 24, 2015
Consider how the biological effects of listening to music might affect people with a wide range of medical conditions, from those undergoing surgery to premature infants, stroke victims, and Alzheimer's patients. Search for the biological mechanisms that make music a powerful balm for the mind and body.
Disorders of Music Cognition
14. Disorders of Music Cognition
July 24, 2015
Turn to cases where music cognition breaks down in disorders such as dystimbria and amusia. General Ulysses S. Grant and novelist Vladimir Nabokov appear to have been affected by amusia. Investigate what they and others with similar deficits miss when listening to music, and explore the underlying cause.
The Development of Human Music Cognition
13. The Development of Human Music Cognition
July 24, 2015
Not all aspects of musicality mature in the brain at the same rate. Trace the developing music faculty in infants, who have already learned to recognize their mother's speech patterns and singing while in the womb. Examine research showing that singing is more effective than speech in calming infants.
Cognitive Benefits of Musical Training
12. Cognitive Benefits of Musical Training
July 24, 2015
Probe the ongoing research into the effects of musical training on the microstructure of the brain, which points to cognitive benefits in areas such as speech processing. Focus on how learning to play a musical instrument influences language acquisition and reading ability in children.
Nature, Nurture, and Musical Brains
11. Nature, Nurture, and Musical Brains
July 24, 2015
Use neuroimaging to investigate the ways that brains of musicians differ from those of non-musicians, asking whether the differences are due to nature or nurture--whether they are inborn or the result of experience. Pinpoint brain structures involved in such musical skills as absolute pitch.
Perceiving and Moving to a Rhythmic Beat
10. Perceiving and Moving to a Rhythmic Beat
July 24, 2015
Look beneath the surface of a seemingly simple feature of music: beat. Discover that beat perception in humans is exceedingly complex and incorporates six distinct criteria. Then survey animal studies to see if other species share our talent for getting the beat.
The Complexities of Musical Rhythm
9. The Complexities of Musical Rhythm
July 24, 2015
Begin your study of musical rhythm by distinguishing periodic from non-periodic rhythmic patterns. Periodicity can be thought of as beat; non-periodicity involves expressive techniques such as timing variations and phrasing. Close by asking whether composers write music in the rhythmic patterns of their native language.
Arousing Expectations: Melody and Harmony
8. Arousing Expectations: Melody and Harmony
July 24, 2015
Melodies and harmonies combine pitches according to rules that we have internalized through experience. Listen to musical examples that demonstrate unresolved and resolved expectations. Consider the analogy to grammar in language, and search for a connection between music and language in the brain.
Consonance, Dissonance, and Musical Scales
7. Consonance, Dissonance, and Musical Scales
July 24, 2015
What brain processes lead people to hear certain intervals as more consonant and others as more dissonant? Evaluate the major theories, one of which traces the phenomenon to the acoustic quality of the human voice. Then examine the structure of musical scales.
Musical Building Blocks: Pitch and Timbre
6. Musical Building Blocks: Pitch and Timbre
July 24, 2015
Focus on two processes that are fundamental to musicality: the perception of pitch and timbre. Pitch allows us to order sounds from low to high. Timbre lets us distinguish two sounds with the same pitch, loudness, and duration. Both pitch and timbre are constructed by the brain and have deep evolutionary roots.
Brain Sources of Music's Emotional Power
5. Brain Sources of Music's Emotional Power
July 24, 2015
Delve deeper into the emotional reactions that people have to music. Feel the chills induced by certain musical passages and study the theories about where these powerful feelings come from. Then look at eight distinct psychological mechanisms by which music arouses emotions in listeners.
Music, Language, and Emotional Expression
4. Music, Language, and Emotional Expression
July 24, 2015
What makes a piece of music sound sad? Or joyful? Or angry? Why does music have expressive power beyond words? Explore the different ways that music conveys emotion. Test your own responses to musical passages composed especially for the course.
Testing Theories of Music's Origins
3. Testing Theories of Music's Origins
July 24, 2015
Follow two lines of research that have put ideas about music's origins to the test. Start with studies of music perception in monkeys. Then turn to an ingenious experiment with young children, designed to evaluate the theory that musical behavior enhances social bonds between group members.
Seeking an Evolutionary Theory of Music
2. Seeking an Evolutionary Theory of Music
July 24, 2015
Darwin believed that musical behavior arose because it gave our early ancestors a biological advantage. But what advantage? Investigate Darwin's theory and other adaptationist explanations for the evolution of music. Then look at two alternatives: invention theories and gene-culture co-evolution theories.
Music: Culture, Biology, or Both?
1. Music: Culture, Biology, or Both?
July 24, 2015
Explore the distinction between music and musicality. While musical styles change, musicality is the stable array of mental processes that underlie our ability to appreciate and produce music. Begin by looking at our capacity for relative pitch perception, asking why we excel over all other animals at this skill.
Where to Watch Music and the Brain
Music and the Brain is available for streaming on the The Great Courses website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Music and the Brain on demand at Amazon, Kanopy and Hoopla.
  • Premiere Date
    July 24, 2015