If our advances in understanding brain modularity represent one of the great advances of the last decade, a couple of central mysteries remain. The first is the phenomenon of consciousness, which I don’t intend to take on today. For me, at least, the second mystery is music. In particular, how do we understand the evolution of the capacity to create, appreciate, analyze, and respond emotionally to music. It is likely that human music in some form evolved in parallel to the use of pictograms, the use of tools, and, presumably, the development of speech and conscious awareness. Intense scientific research has been devoted to these eveolutionary topics (see Geary for instance). But music remains most puzzeling. One might imagine that musicality evolved along with speech. However, different parts of the brain are used for music and speech. Patients with aphasia due to damage to core speech areas may retain the ability to recognize songs, sing, and even produce lyrics (swearing is also preserved, interestingly). Dr. Kenichi Ikuta, a Japanese psychiatrist, used to work in a nursing home.He found that patients suffering from severe Alzheimer’s Disease who were mute and failed to recognize family members are caregivers were able to participate in Karoke, carying the tune and adding lyrics. We know that music communicates more directly with the emotional parts of our brain. Perhaps it resonates with the most basic, central aspects of self, only partly available to consciousness.
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