Monday, May 10, 2010

The Neuro of Music

Great post over at the Nature Blog network on the neuroscience of music and pleasure:

"Why do we enjoy music? Well, simply put, research shows that music elicits a number of physiological changes including increased release of dopamine from neurons originating in the ventral tegmental area, a mid-brain structure associated with the emotional reward [1]. This reward for music that we enjoy evokes an autonomic response subjectively referred to as "shivers down the spine." [2]. This is a robust and highly reproducible phenomenon."

I will have to catch up on those papers, but it is really interesting that the "shivers down the spine" you get from really good music is a real, physiological phenomenom. Makes sense. And if you've never felt it, you need to get some better music! Also note the parahippocampus is NOT correlated with pleasure, which makes sense considering it's proximity to the amygdala (fear response center). It also makes me wonder how people with Parkinson's experience music later in the course of their disease considering the lack of dopamine...
I would take issue with the implicit assumption that only "pop music" can produce such a response - although he does put the caveat of "consonant"(will have to read this more in-depth after finals!). I think it is much more tied to the emotional context of the music, state of mind of the listener and familiarity with the music being played. I can get the shivers from anything from Yo-Yo Ma to Tool and a lot in between. Most of the time it is based on my understanding of the music and/or lyrics, but the prerequisite, for me, seems to be quality musicianship.
For those floating around in the blogosphere... what music has given you the shivers?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Physio Testes

Or how Dr. H made physiology fun through corny jokes:

"We know that increased heat decreases the viabilty and production of sperm. Studies have shown that men sitting crosslegged with their laptop (on laps) the testicle closer to the laptop (hotter) produces less. Another quick way mentioned is to see if the male wears tightie whities. If so, tell him to change to boxers.... now, if you don't believe me consider this: ever seen batman? does batman have children? I rest my case."