Thursday, 5 June 2008

Imagine - Alan Yentob - Music Psychology

Saw a very interesting documentary recently presented by "Noddies" Yentob in which he wasn't an annoying twat, so that was good. The programme was all about the effect that music has on the brain, the way that music "lights up" certain sections of the cerebral cortex.

One amazing thing was a blind, heavily autistic and profoundly intellectually retarded man - he had the brain function responses of a 4-year old - was an incredibly talented pianist and could play ANY section of music (and improvise as well) after hearing it once, no matter how complicated.

You can still see the documentary here on BBC i-Player, which is turning out to be relatively bug-free and a useful little piece of kit.

The interesting thoughts which came out of seeing this quality documentary was mainly to do with the question:

Why has the brain evolved in this way, so that music is a pleasurable experience?

My thoughts were as follows -- as the human brain evolved as got more advanced, it was able to produce music/art because of a new-found prowess in the ability in symbolic thought, being able to see objects as part of a whole, see patterns and motifs in everyday life and bring them into collusion with other ideas. E.g. Rock = Ground = Earth = Ecosystem.

Or perhaps once humans were able to elucidate existentialist thought, contemplate self-harm or suicide, the brain evolved into being able to produce music and art as a way of propelling the propagation of the species. So, "music is great, la-di-dah, I want to hear more of this, let us copulate immediately." Perhaps not.

This was a week in which I discovered (through Joe Rogan here) that the intensely powerful hallucinogen DMT (di-methlytriptamine) is produced in small amounts by the pineal gland in the centre of the brain, and doses of it are released every night when we're in heavy REM sleep. Insomniacs are missing more than just sleep.