Nova: Musical Minds with Dr. Oliver Sacks

By Ingrid Fetell Lee

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I’m guilty of not being much of a public television watcher (even as I adore public radio), so I’m awfully glad that the New York Times reviewed tonight’s Nova: Musical Minds in this morning’s paper. I haven’t yet read Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, the latest of Dr. Sacks’s explorations into atypical neuroscience, but this was a pretty good primer. The show tells the stories of several people with unusual relationships to music: a guy with Tourette’s who discovered drumming keeps his tics in check, a blind and autistic man with a gift for piano, a man who developed a magical musical ability after being struck by lightning, and a woman who gets no pleasure from music at all.

The show also treats us to fMRIs of the brain of Dr. Sacks himself, on music, so to speak. Interested as I am in the way that music relates to joy, it was particularly exciting to see how many parts of the brain are involved in the enjoyment of music. Sacks points out that even some of the oldest parts of the brain, such as the cerebellum, get in on the act when music is processed in the brain, suggesting to me that music is a very deep, very old pleasure for humans.

You can watch the entire episode online tomorrow, here. I highly recommend it!

June 30th, 2009

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