Happy to share my first academic publication from the July issue of Music & Medicine! Article includes my work from UC San Diego on musical intensity and self-harming behaviors as well as 3 case studies illustrating how music can be used in life-preserving ways. Conducting this research was one of the most challenging and meaningful endeavors of my life, and I’m honored to see these individuals’ powerful stories shared.
Abstract courtesy of Neuromusic News, Fondazione Mariani
Music and dementia: individual differences in response to personalized playlists
Journal of Alzheimers Disease 2018 Jun 23
Garrido S, Stevens CJ, Chang E, Dunne L, Perz J
MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour & Development, Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia
And for our Italian friends:
Journal: Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, vol. 64, no. 3, pp. 933-941, 2018
Playing a Musical Instrument as a Protective Factor against Dementia and Cognitive Impairment: A Population-Based Twin Study
Increasing evidence supports that playing a musical instrument may benefit cognitive development and health at young ages. Whether playing an instrument provides protection against dementia has not been established. In a population-based cotwin control study, we examined the association between playing a musical instrument and whether or not the twins developed dementia or cognitive impairment. Participation in playing an instrument was taken from informant-based reports of twins’ leisure activities. Dementia diagnoses were based on a complete clinical workup using standard diagnostic criteria. Among 157 twin pairs discordant for dementia and cognitive impairment, 27 pairs were discordant for playing an instrument. Controlling for sex, education, and physical activity, playing a musical instrument was significantly associated with less likelihood of dementia and cognitive impairment (odds ratio [OR] = 0.36 [95% confidence interval 0.13–0.99]). These findings support further consideration of music as a modifiable protective factor against dementia and cognitive impairment.
For our Italian friends:
Crescenti evidenze sperimentali suggeriscono che suonare uno strumento musicale sia positivo per la salute e lo sviluppo cognitivo dei giovani, invece non è stato stabilito se possa esercitare un effetto protettivo contro la demenza. In questo studio gli Autori indagano l’associazione tra il suonare uno strumento e lo sviluppo di demenza o declino cognitivo in una popolazione di gemelli. La capacità o meno di suonare uno strumento è stata dedotta dalle informazioni personali ottenute dai gemelli, mentre la diagnosi di demenza è stata verificata usando i criteri diagnostici standard. Tra 157 gemelli discordanti per lo sviluppo di demenza, 27 coppie erano discordanti anche per l’aver suonato uno strumento musicale. Controllando per sesso, educazione e attività fisica, la capacità di suonare uno strumento era associata con una ridotta probabilità di demenza e disagio cognitivo (odds ratio [OR]?=?0.36 [95% intervallo di confidenza 0.13-0.99]). Questi risultati supportano la possibilità di considerare la musica come fattore protettivo contro demenza e declino cognitivo.
M. Alison Balbag, Nancy L. Pedersen, and Margaret Gatz, “Playing a Musical Instrument as a Protective Factor against Dementia and Cognitive Impairment: A Population-Based Twin Study,” International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, vol. 2014, Article ID 836748, 6 pages, 2014. doi:10.1155/2014/836748
Copyright © 2014 M. Alison Balbag et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Chill-inducing music enhances altruism in humans Frontiers in Psychology, published online October 2014
Fukui H, Toyoshima
Faculty of Education, Nara University of Education, Nara, Japan
Music is a universal feature of human cultures, and it has both fascinated and troubled many researchers. In this paper we show through the dictator game (DG) that an individual’s listening to preferred “chill-inducing” music may promote altruistic behavior that extends beyond the bounds of kin selection or reciprocal altruism. Participants were 22 undergraduate and postgraduate students who were divided into two groups, the in-group and the out-group, and they acted as dictators. The dictators listened to their own preferred “chill-inducing” music, to music they disliked, or to silence, and then played the DG. In this hypothetical experiment, the dictators were given real money (which they did not keep) and were asked to distribute it to the recipients, who were presented as stylized images of men and women displayed on a computer screen. The dictators played the DG both before and after listening to the music. Both male and female dictators gave more money after listening to their preferred music and less after listening to the music they disliked, whereas silence had no effect on the allocated amounts. The group to which the recipient belonged did not influence these trends. The results suggest that listening to preferred “chill-inducing” music promotes altruistic behavior.
Table 1 – Mean allocation of each stimuli.
And for our Italian friends:
La musica è una caratteristica universale tra gli esseri umani, che da anni affascina e intriga i ricercatori. In questo studio i ricercatori dimostrano, attraverso il gioco del dittatore (DG), che quando un individuo ascolta la sua musica preferita, quella che induce i brividi, viene spinto verso comportamenti altruistici che vanno al di là del clan di appartenenza o dell’altruismo reciproco. Hanno partecipato allo studio 22 giovani tra studenti e laureati divisi in due gruppi, il gruppo “interno” e il gruppo “esterno”, e agivano da dittatori. I dittatori ascoltavano musica di loro gradimento o musica che non gradivano, oppure silenzio, prima di agire da dittatori. In questo esperimento ai dittatori veniva dato denaro reale che non potevano però tenere, ma che dovevano distribuire ai riceventi, presentati come immagini stilizzate di uomini e donne sullo schermo di un computer. I dittatori giocavano al DG sia prima sia dopo avere ascolto la musica. Sia i dittatori uomini che donne elargivano più denaro dopo avere ascoltato la loro musica preferita e meno dopo avere ascoltato musica sgradita, mentre il silenzio non aveva alcun effetto sulle somme che venivano allocate. Il gruppo al quale il ricevente apparteneva non influenzava questo trend. Gli Autori concludono che l’ascolto della musica preferita incoraggia comportamenti altruistici.
|Fukui, H., & Toyoshima, K. (2014). Chill-inducing music enhances altruism in humans. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1215. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01215|
For complete article, please see Frontiers in Psychology.
Editorial note: The views of the following statement contained in the full article, As is widely known, music has the ability to strongly affect a person’s emotions and sometimes even control them (Juslin and Sloboda, 2010),” does not necessarily represent the views of Pathways in Music.
Personal preferred ‘chill-inducing’ moment, in total recollection, occurs in the following piece, 3:32
Friday commenced with the morning keynote delivered by Dr. Ani Patel, entitled Does instrumental musical training enhance the brain’s processing of speech? In Patel’s articulate and informative lecture, he began by drawing our attention to the following: “Music and language have important connections as cognitive and neural systems, and that has implications for theoretical debates about how the mind is organized – for evolutionary studies on the origins of these abilities, and practical issues about remediation of language disorders” (Patel, 2014). Though the parallels in music and language are less novel on account of the publication of his 2008 book Music, Language and the Brain, the implications of instrumental training lending to developments in language and speech are very much so. In conclusion, operating with his extended OPERA hypothesis, Patel emphasizes that regardless of the varying direction and debates these studies may undergo, “Comparative music and language research really does deepen our understanding of human communication.” (Patel, 2014).
Dr. Elizabeth Tolbert spoke next, providing an evolutionary perspective in Music, Meaning and Becoming Human. Approaching the co-evolution of music, meaning and social intelligence, Tolbert addressed music as a behavior, not object; of possessing a social ontology, and its implicational model as derived from social interaction, shared intentionality and social intelligence. Her overarching thesis states “the story of becoming human is the story of the development of a specifically human type of meaning rooted in social intelligence, and one that likely has its origins in proto-musical behavior.” (Tolbert, 2014).
Dr. Ian Cross’s lecture entitled Music, Participation and Interaction further expanded on the day’s existing idea of music not only as a “practice composed by the few and consumed by many,” but as the encompassment of interactive processes far beyond a role of abstract structures, symbolic realms or lofty themes. As uniquely flexible and socially cooperative creatures, humans are capable of utilizing music as not only a mode of communicating information and ideals, but at times as phatic organisms. Cross went on to explain with conviction that if this theory were more widely considered, the insinuation might result in music being given the proper chance to utilize it’s more pragmatic magic in resolving social uncertainties (and thus social anxiety), provide powerful effects on memory and social attitude, and “provide us with new perspectives on the investigation of music beyond the bounds of Western culture” (Cross, 2014).
The second keynote, Losing the Beat: A New Window on Human Rhythm was given Dr. Isabelle Peretz (University of Montreal). Peretz has published over two hundred and fifty five scientific papers regarding everything from perception, emotion and memory to singing and dancing. In Losing the Beat, Peretz explained that a defining characteristic of human interaction with music is “the identity and ability to move to the beat.” Although this universal faculty is typically formed early in life, her recent research shows that some individuals suffer from the inability to synchronize with beats in music. This disorder is referred to as beat deafness, a new form of congenital amusia. In her presentation, Peretz conveyed a strong sensibility for the cause of studying musical disorders in regard to “reverse-engineering of the musical brain” (Peretz, 2014).
Later in the afternoon, Andrea Halpern took the floor to share her work on auditory imagery, and to describe her study examining the neural loci of imagined music. Halpern is a pioneer in her long-standing devotion to the field from early in its development. She has contributed fundamental work on memory and perception of musical structure, including studies on earworms and the persistence of musical memories), effects of timbre and tempo change, and perception of emotion in sounded and imagined music. In her presentation Auditory Imagery: Linking Internal and External Music, Halpern presented the argument that although internal and external music experiences are distinctive encounters, they share a number of important similarities, which both musicians and nonmusicians can exploit to enhance the musical experience.
Photo 1 – Diana Hereld
Photos 2, 3 – Scott Metcalfe
Note: I must include an apology for the delay in reporting on the conference this weekend. I simply found myself so wonderfully overwhelmed with information (but overwhelmed regardless) that I was unsure how to encapsulate the day’s culmination of so many brilliant minds in presentation of their most recent work. As a result, I’ve decided to report individually on each of them in the near future. A few other outlets have picked up specific coverage, and I will advise as those are released. I will also be sharing a summation of the conference’s concluding rountable featuring the speakers and performers, which was truly a thing to behold.
(January 30-31, Baltimore, MD) The Music, Mind and Meaning Conference will bring together scientists from the field of music cognition and renowned musicians for a two-day event to explore the relationships between music and science at the Peabody Institute of Music. The events will include presentations from leading scientists and a special musical performance by the Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Vijay Iyer and tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas, Chair of Jazz Studies at Peabody. Keynote speakers will be Drs. David Huron, Aniruddh Patel, and Isabelle Peretz, three remarkable scientists who have led groundbreaking studies of how and why people have engaged in musical behaviors throughout human history. Conference participants will include scientists, clinicians, musicians, students and interested members of the public. Presentations will explore the idea of musical meaning by examining issues of expectation, creativity, evolution, culture, language, emotion and memory from the viewpoint of cognitive psychology, musicology and auditory neuroscience. The conference is generously supported by a conference grant from the Brain Sciences Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. For more information visit http://www.mmmbaltimore2014.org/.
I will be attending and covering this conference, so please feel free to follow me on Twitter @pathwaysinmusic and look for coverage here directly following. A special thanks to Mr. Cooper McClain for making this trip possible.
Mademoiselle, published in 1981 by Bruno Monsaingeon and translated from the original French by Robyn Marsack, is a compilation of conversations of the great musician and teacher, Nadia Boulanger. These dialogues with Monsaingeon took place during the final five years of Boulanger’s life, as she became closer and closer to death. It seems fitting, then, to be a time of reflection on the relationships arisen, mistakes ill-profited from, and lessons realized. In Boulanger’s ninety-two years, she became an incredibly accomplished pianist, prolific conductor, and remarkable teacher of music. Some of her most acclaimed students included Aaron Copland, Roy Harris and Virgil Thompson-and therefore it can truly be said that she “changed the face of American music.”
Characteristic from the onset until the very end of this publication is the apparent amount of charisma, devotion and passion Boulanger exhibited through her music and life, despite the physical setbacks present. One specific constituent to her character was her driven and unwavering view of herself in the lack of contentment she found in her own music. When conversing about the difference between a masterpiece and a simply respectable composition, she was asked to explain the criterion. She states, “For me, this always comes back to faith. As I accept God, I accept emotion. I also accept masterpieces…I believe that there are conditions without which masterpieces cannot be achieved, but I also believe that what defines a masterpiece cannot be pinned down.” There is much wisdom to be seen in this: it is necessarily true. It returns Hegel’s rational and even empirical question of aesthetics: What makes something beautiful? What constitutes good art? The answer can be nothing but subjective and relative to the perceiver, and yet I would agree that masterpieces are borne under but certain conditions. To paraphrase Hegel, nothing great has ever been accomplished without passion.
Another important notion Boulanger emphatically stood for lay in the realm of desire. If one’s desire is such that it may be tainted by lack of opportunity, want of time or simple laziness, the desire had truly no stock in the first place. She speaks of Plato and Schubert, and the greats throughout the age. They are remembered for being truly great, and why; because of their sheer dedication, stanch discipline and distinctive passion to create, to know, to be. Boulanger states earlier on in the work that she believes if one does not value existence, they cannot play well, think well, or live well. If one is not engaged consciously; if one is not thinking, he temporarily exists in vain, he has lost himself. Whether we rely on Hamlet’s “Words without thought to Heaven never go,” or the deductive Cogito of Descartes, whatever one is doing, it must be with purpose, and it must be with discipline.
Lastly, the ideal I have found to be of most exhilarating worth is the basic early existential concept of freedom, responsibility and choice. It continues on from the above: we are what we do; we end only where our actions lead us. She speaks of different types of people-ones who exist in a simply content state in their everyday lives, lacking attention and self-awareness. There are others, then, who live in an entirely different place: one of extreme focus, attentiveness and in possession of an extraordinary need to develop. When the latter engage in literature, a piece of music or in some sort of academia, they are engaged. One such as this is interested by their very nature. Life is entirely what we may draw from it, never the other way around. Ingrained in humanity is the potential to produce; to create great things. But one may not have only talent, or only technique, one must have the devout ardency and will to arrive. Valéry stated specifically, “It depends on you, o passer-by, whether I am tomb or treasury. It depends on you, friend; do not enter without desire.”
In personal response, I found the conclusion of the dialogue to be incredibly poignant, and sadly little-known truth. The main metaphysical questions-how do we know, what do we know, and what can we know-about life, love and music, she answers with painful yet simplistic candor. It is the Socratic coming of age, and it is but the very wise who may say:
“You’re pushing me…You’re asking me to lay down truths…I’m simply amazed to have some intuitions…I have to admit that I do not know. And when I say I do not know, I am proclaiming a great victory for thought. I do not know, therefore I think along better and more essential lines, because when I do know, I am aware that it’s only in a human measure. I know all the notes, do re mi so…semi-quavers and so on…I can analyse everything. But one page, one line, one bar of Schubert, I do not know.”
 Monsaingeon, Bruno. Mademoiselle. (London: Carcanet Press Limited, 1985) 13.