On Episode 8 of the Connectome podcast, Ben talks with Oliver Sacks, renowned neuroscientist and author of such books as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Musicophilia and Hallucinations. In particular, Sacks joins us to talk about some patients of his who’ve been hallucinating strange varieties of musical notation. But musical hallucinations are only the beginning – Sacks also shares his insights on dreams, hallucinogenic drugs, selfhood, and plenty of other phenomena that make subjective experience so mysterious. Whether you’re new to Dr. Sacks’ work or a lifelong fan of his writing, this interview raises some consciousness-related … Continue reading “Hallucination, Imagination, Dreams & Drugs” — Podcast 8: Oliver Sacks
A new study throws some light on how musical aptitude can offset one very specific aspect of the aging process. In research comparing older patients with musical training to those without, older people who’d spent time regularly practicing or teaching music consistently displayed much faster neural reaction times to certain kinds of sounds. The idea that the human brain has a deep relationship with music is obviously nothing new – but lately, research has been demonstrating more and more ways in which music is a major ingredient in mental health. For example, a 2007 study found that the brain reacts … Continue reading Musical Learning
Scientists have discovered direct neural correlates of synesthesia, a new study reports. Not only have they detected activation patterns corresponding to synesthesic activity (such as “seeing” certain colors when thinking of certain numbers or sounds) – they’ve isolated an actual functional difference in the brains of synesthesic people. And what’s more, they’ve discovered a way to crank up synesthesic activity. Let’s break this down and talk about what they’ve done here. To understand what’s going on, let’s take a quick glance at history. Synesthesia’s fascinated artists and scientists since way back – in fact, the first people to write about it were the … Continue reading The Colors, Man! The Colors!
This past weekend, I got to visit one of the coolest places I’ve ever seen: the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging (LONI). So just for today, I’m gonna take a break from news reporting, and tell you a little about what goes on inside an actual cutting-edge neuroscience lab. Sound good? OK, let’s go! I’m not sure quite what I was expecting to see as I stepped through the lab’s electronically locked door – certainly not the roomful of clean, open-walled work areas that greeted me. I might’ve been standing in a sleek law office, or an advertising agency – … Continue reading The Brain Lab Tour
Our brains process music via different sensory pathways depending on what we think its source is, a new study finds. As our brains organize information from our senses into a coherent representation of the world around us, they’re constantly hard at work associating data from one sense – say, sight – with data from another – say, hearing. A lot of the time, this process is pretty straightforward – for instance, if we see a man talking and hear a nearby male voice, it’s typically safe for our brains to assume the voice “goes with” the man’s lip movements. But it’s also not too … Continue reading Musical Matchups