Tag Archive: Music

Woman with headphones

Listening to new music is rewarding for the brain, a study suggests.

Using MRI scans, a Canadian team of scientists found that areas in the reward centre of the brain became active when people heard a song for the first time.

The more the listener enjoyed what they were hearing, the stronger the connections were in the region of the brain called the nucleus accumbens.

The study is published in the journal Science.

Dr Valorie Salimpoor, from the Rotman Research Institute, in Toronto, told the BBC’s Science in Action programme: “We know that the nucleus accumbens is involved with reward.

“But music is abstract: It’s not like you are really hungry and you are about to get a piece of food and you are really excited about it because you are going to eat it – or the same thing applies to sex or money – that’s when you would normally see activity in the nucleus accumbens.

“But what’s cool is that you’re anticipating and getting excited over something entirely abstract – and that’s the next sound that is coming up.”

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“You are the hole in my head
You are the space in my bed
You are the silence in between
What I thought and what I said

You are the night-time fear
You are the morning when it’s clear
When it’s over your start

You’re my head
You’re my heart”

This is your Brain on Music

This is your brain:

Is this your brain on Music?

Well, to be entirely honest…probably not. But music’s still nice. Let’s take a look at why.

Salimpoor, et al. “Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music” Nature Neuroscience, 2011.

Whenever I do outreach to kids in schools about drug research and drugs in the brain, we end up talking about “natural” highs. Pleasurable things like food and sex, and as I told them, rock and roll. I knew there had been previous studies out there showing that music activates pleasure and reward-related regions of the brain. This one is by no means the first, though it is the first to show a nice time correlation with specific brain area activation, and the first to really make certain that dopamine was the culprit. Nevertheless, this paper lit up the internet, because nothing sounds as good as the phrase “music gets you high!”.

The idea is this: humans find a lot of things pleasurable. This is necessary, because if you don’t find something pleasurable, you don’t DO it, and things like eating and sex, those are a little necessary. When you need to feel pleasure in something you’re doing, enter your mesolimbic dopamine system. To sum up, your mesolimbic dopamine system starts with cell producing dopamine in an area called the ventral tegmental area, located deep in the center of your brain. These cells project, and send dopamine signals to, other areas, including an area called the ventral striatum, containing the nucleus accumbens.

(Dopamine system is in Blue)

The nucleus accumbens is mostly studied for the way dopamine signals within it change in response to drugs like cocaine or amphetamine. But dopamine in the ventral striatum is important for more than just drugs, it’s also important for natural rewards like food and sex.

…and music.

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Today’s Tune: Be Still

“Be still
Wild and young
Long may your innocence reign
Like shells on the shore
And may your limits be unknown
And may your efforts be your own
If you ever feel you can’t take it anymore

Don’t break character
You’ve got a lot of heart
Is this real or just a dream?”

This is the Earth’s song, pinging out contended chirrups into deep space.

The haunting sounds have been captured by Nasa’s twin Radiation Belt Storm Probe (RBSP) satellite, which launched on August 30 this year.

The satellites captured the chirping and whistling radio waves emitted by Earth’s magnetosphere on September 5.

The sound is known as ‘Earth’s chorus’ and can be heard by human ears – that is, assuming you could take your helmet off while floating in space.

Craig Kletzing, from the University of Iowa, is the principal investigator of the Electric and Magnetic Field Instrument Suite and Integrated Science (EMFISIS) instruments on-board the satellites.

The sounds of Earth: As charged solar particles hit the inner and outer radiation belts around our planet, they get caught and whipped around, emitting the sounds which you can hear below

He said: ‘People have known about chorus for decades.

‘Radio receivers are used to pick it up, and it sounds a lot like birds chirping.

‘It was often more easily picked up in the mornings, which along with the chirping sound is why it’s sometimes referred to as “dawn chorus”.’

The radio waves are at frequencies which can be heard from the human ear, but sadly you might need to be in space and without a helmet – which is not medically advisable.

You might also encounter the tricky problem of sound not travelling through the vacuum.

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During experiments on the axons of the Woods Hole squid (loligo pealei), Backyard Brains tested their cockroach leg stimulus protocol on the squid’s chromatophores. The results were both interesting and beautiful. The video is a view through an 8x microscope zoomed in on the dorsal side of the caudal fin of the squid. They used a suction electrode to stimulate the fin nerve. Chromatophores are pigmeted cells that come in 3 colors: Brown, Red, and Yellow. Each chromatophore is lined with up to 16 muscles that contract to reveal their color.

When an audio signal is converted to an electric signal, basically what happens inside a microphone, that electric voltage can be applied to tissues! The resulting voltage changes can trigger electrochemical signals, just like the chromatophores you’ll see on the video.

Today’s Tune: Mother

“Mamma’s gonna make all of your nightmares come true,
Mamma’s gonna put all of her fears into you,
Mamma’s gonna keep you right here, under her wing.
She won’t let you fly, but she might let you sing,
Mamma’s gonna keep baby cosy and warm.
Of course Mamma’s gonna help build the wall.”

“We are just the monkeys who fell out of the trees
We are blisters on the earth
And we are not the flowers, we’re the strangling weeds in the meadow
And love is just our way of looking out for ourselves
When we don’t want to live alone
So step into the vacuum, tear off your clothes and be born again” 

“I don’t wanna be your friend
I just wanna be your lover
No matter how it ends
No matter how it starts”

“…She’s waiting
just anticipating
the thing that you’ll never never possess
but while she there waiting
try just a little bit of tenderness
that’s all you got to do…?”

“I’m not afraid of anything even time
It’ll eke away at everything but we’ll be fine”

“But one thing’s for certain, when it comes my time,
I’ll leave this old world with a satisfied mind.”

Stonehenge from the air

The Neolithic builders of Stonehenge were inspired by “auditory illusions” when they drew up blueprints for the ancient monument, a researcher claims.

The radical proposal follows a series of experiments by US scientist Steven Waller, who claims the positions of the standing stones match patterns in sound waves created by a pair of musical instruments.

Waller, an independent researcher in California, said the layout of the stones corresponded to the regular spacing of loud and quiet sounds created by acoustic interference when two instruments played the same note continuously.

In Neolithic times, the nature of sound waves – and their ability to reinforce and cancel each other out – would have been mysterious enough to verge on the magical, Waller said. Quiet patches created by acoustic interference could have led to the “auditory illusion” that invisible objects stood between a listener and the instruments being played, he added.

To investigate whether instruments could create such auditory illusions, Waller rigged two flutes to an air pump so they played the same note continuously. When he walked around them in a circle, the volume rose, fell and rose again as the sound waves interfered with each other. “What I found unexpected was how I experienced those regions of quiet. It felt like I was being sheltered from the sound. As if something was protecting me. It gave me a feeling of peace and quiet,” he said.

To follow up, Waller recruited volunteers, blindfolded them, and led them in a circle around the instruments. He then asked participants to sketch out the shape of any obstructions they thought lay between them and the flutes. Some drew circles of pillars, and one volunteer added lintels, a striking feature of the Stonehenge monument.

“If these people in the past were dancing in a circle around two pipers and were experiencing the loud and soft and loud and soft regions that happen when an interference pattern is set up, they would have felt there were these massive objects arranged in a ring. It would have been this completely baffling experience, and anything that was mysterious like that in the past was considered to be magic and supernatural.

Listen to audio here: flutes2.mp3

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Today’s Tune: Already There

The Maccabees – Pelican

A trippy new video for the Macabees directed by UK-based animator David Wilson.

Yes, there’s an online retailer’s offering is a fully-playable DJ-quality drum machine — which happens to be embedded in the front of a shirt. It’s priced at $30, comes with a mini amp which can be clipped to a belt, has an analog audio output jack, and eats four AA batteries at a time.

Talwar was charged by the government to investigate the drugs landscape over the next 20 years, exploring scenarios going beyond the traditional model of gangs producing and shipping drugs around the world.

He described how the world of genomic sequencing and services such as 23 and Me open up possibilities for tailoring drugs to the individual, delivering effects based on your physiology — which could apply just as effectively to narcotics as it could medicines.

He cited research from the University of California, Berkeley where neuroscientists were able to replicate images people were seeing based on the brain patterns of activity. When combined with transcranial magnetic stimulation — which has been used to inhibit brain functions such as the ability to speak or remember — it opens up the possibility of electronically delivering targeted highs.

He said: “You could also visualize the experience and then tailor the effect to what you want. This nano-bio-info-cogno convergence gets us into some very interesting spheres.”

One scenario he imagines would make use of biological proteins manufactured with information-processing technology to deliver effects that could be triggered by electromagnetic stimulation. He imagined that they could be used in a club environment where the DJ would release nanoparticles that the audience could ingest. These could then be used to trigger the desired state at a particular point during his or her set using an electrical stimulus (from a headset) into the crowd’s brains.

“The more we can understand the brain, the more we can deliver positive effects such as improved memory function. Do you want to get high? Mellow? Actually I want to live my life in my head as half-human half-cat,” he joked.

This sort of situation would mean that regulation of these “drugs” would move from trying to stop people from producing them to quality control. This sort of future could eliminate the cartels that control the drugs trade at the moment, because pharmaceutical companies might be able to corner the market and guarantee the quality of the experiences.

Trust Us: We Got More

Today’s Tune: Dreamers

“Hey, there dreamers
I know you feel alone
Way out there out there dreamin’
You got no proof to take back home…

Hey, there screamers
I know you get these done
Way out there out there screamin
Well you can’t hear anyone”

Today’s Tune: Blinding

“Felt it in my fists, in my feet, in the hollows of my eyelids
Shaking through my skull, through my spine and down through my ribs
No more dreaming of the dead as if death itself was undone”


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