Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 11:50AM
Drew Wolfe

A Musical Brain May Help Us Understand Language And Appreciate Tchaikovsky

"What sounds like music to us may just be noise to a macaque monkey."

"That's because a monkey's brain appears to lack critical circuits that are highly sensitive to a sound's pitch, a team reported Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience."

"The finding suggests that humans may have developed brain areas that are sensitive to pitch and tone in order to process the sounds associated with speech and music."

"'The macaque monkey doesn't have the hardware,' says Bevil Conway, an investigator at the National Institutes of Health. 'The question in my mind is, what are the monkeys hearing when they listen to Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony?'"

"The study began with a bet between Conway and Sam Norman-Haignere, who was a graduate student at the time."

"Norman-Haignere, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University, was part of a team that found evidence that the human brain responds to a sound's pitch."

"'I was like, well if you see that and it's a robust finding you see in humans, we'll see it in monkeys,' Conway says."

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