Music offers a unique opportunity to better understand the organization of the human brain. Like language, music exists in all human societies. Like language, music is a complex, rule-governed activity that seems specific to humans, and associated with a specific brain architecture. Yet unlike most other high-level functions of the human brain - and unlike language - music is a skill at which only a minority of people become proficient. The study of music as a major brain function has for (...) some time been relatively neglected. Just recently, however, we have witnessed an explosion in research activities on music perception and performance and their correlates in the human brain. This volume brings together an outstanding collection of international authorities - from the fields of music, neuroscience, psychology, and neurology - to describe the amazing advances being made in understanding the complex relationship between music and the brain. Aimed at psychologists and neuroscientists, this is a book that will lay the foundations for a cognitive neuroscience of music. (shrink)
Current research on emotional responses to dissonance has yielded consistent data in both developmental psychology and neuroscience. What seems to be lacking is a definition of what might constitute dissonance in non-musical domains. Thus, contrary to Juslin & Vll's (J&V) proposal for the need to distinguish between six broad mechanisms, I argue that future research should rather focus on perceptual determinants of each basic emotion.
Congenital amusia in its most common form is a disorder characterized by a musical pitch processing deficit. Although pitch is involved in conveying emotion in music, the implications for pitch deficits on musical emotion judgements is still under debate. Relatedly, both limited and spared musical emotion recognition was reported in amusia in conditions where emotion cues were not determined by musical mode or dissonance. Additionally, assumed links between musical abilities and visuo-spatial attention processes need further investigation in congenital amusics. Hence, (...) we here test to what extent musical emotions can influence attentional performance. Fifteen congenital amusic adults and fifteen healthy controls matched for age and education were assessed in three attentional conditions: executive control, alerting, and orienting while music expressing either joy, tenderness, sadness, or tension was presented. Visual target detection was in the normal range for both accuracy and response times in the amusic relative to the control participants. Moreover, in both groups, music exposure produced facilitating effects on selective attention that appeared to be driven by the arousal dimension of musical emotional content, with faster correct target detection during joyful compared to sad music. These findings corroborate the idea that pitch processing deficits related to congenital amusia do not impede other cognitive domains, particularly visual attention. Furthermore, our study uncovers an intact influence of music and its emotional content on the attentional abilities of amusic individuals. The results highlight the domain-selectivity of the pitch disorder in congenital amusia, which largely spares the development of visual attention and affective systems. (shrink)
Musical prodigies reach exceptionally high levels of achievement before adolescence. Despite longstanding interest and fascination in musical prodigies, little is known about their psychological profile. Here we assess to what extent practice, intelligence, and personality make musical prodigies a distinct category of musician. Nineteen former or current musical prodigies were compared to 35 musicians with either an early or late start but similar amount of musical training, and 16 non-musicians. All completed a Wechsler IQ test, the Big Five Inventory, the (...) Autism Spectrum Quotient, the Barcelona Music Reward Questionnaire, the Dispositional Flow Scale, and a detailed history of their lifetime music practice. None of the psychological traits distinguished musical prodigies from control musicians or non-musicians except their propensity to report flow during practice. The other aspects that differentiated musical prodigies from their peers were the intensity of their practice before adolescence, and the source of their motivation when they began to play. Thus practice, by itself, does not make a prodigy. The results are compatible with multifactorial models of expertise, with prodigies lying at the high end of the continuum. In summary, prodigies are expected to present brain predispositions facilitating their success in learning an instrument, which could be amplified by their early and intense practice happening at a moment when brain plasticity is heightened. (shrink)