Why Music Moves Us
Universal emotions like anger, sadness and happiness are expressed nearly the same in both music and movement across cultures, according to new research.
The researchers found that when Dartmouth undergraduates and members of a remote Cambodian hill tribe were asked to use sliding bars to adjust traits such as the speed, pitch, or regularity of music, they used the same types of characteristics to express primal emotions. What’s more, the same types of patterns were used to express the same emotions in animations of movement in both cultures.
“The kinds of dynamics you find in movement, you find also in music and they’re used in the same way to provide the same kind of meaning,” said study co-author Thalia Wheatley, a neuroscientist at Dartmouth University.
The findings suggest music’s intense power may lie in the fact it is processed by ancient brain circuitry used to read emotion in our movement.
“The study suggests why music is so fundamental and engaging for us,” said Jonathan Schooler, a professor of brain and psychological sciences at the University of California at Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the study. “It takes advantage of some very, very basic and, in some sense, primitive systems that understand how motion relates to emotion.”
Why people love music has been an enduring mystery. Scientists have found that animals like different music than humans and that brain regions stimulated by food, sex and love also light up when we listen to music. Musicians even read emotions better than nonmusicians.
Past studies showed that the same brain areas were activated when people read emotion in both music and movement. That made Wheatley wonder how the two were connected.
To find out, Wheatley and her colleagues asked 50 Dartmouth undergraduates to manipulate five slider bars to change characteristics of an animated bouncy ball to make it look happy, sad, angry, peaceful or scared.
“We just say ‘Make Mr. Ball look angry or make Mr. Ball look happy,’” she told LiveScience.
To create different emotions in “Mr. Ball,” the students could use the slider bars to affect how often the ball bounced, how often it made big bounces, whether it went up or down more often and how smoothly it moved.
Another 50 students could use similar slider bars to adjust the pitch trajectory, tempo, consonance (repetition), musical jumps and jitteriness of music to capture those same emotions.
The students tended to put the slider bars in roughly the same positions whether they were creating angry music or angry moving balls.
To see if these trends held across cultures, Wheatley’s team traveled to the remote highlands of Cambodia and asked about 85 members of the Kreung tribe to perform the same task. Kreung music sounds radically different from Western music, with gongs and an instrument called a mem that sounds a bit like an insect buzzing, Wheatley said. None of the tribes’ people had any exposure to Western music or media, she added.
Interestingly, the Kreung tended to put the slider bars in roughly the same positions as Americans did to capture different emotions, and the position of the sliders was very similar for both music and emotions.
The findings suggest that music taps into the brain networks and regions that we use to understand emotion in people’s movements. That may explain why music has such power to move us — it’s activating deep-seated brain regions that are used to process emotion, Wheatley said.
“Emotion is the same thing no matter whether it’s coming in through our eyes or ears,” she said.
“Santiago Ramón y Cajal was a Spanish pathologist, histologist,neuroscientist, and Nobel laureate. His pioneering investigations of the microscopic structure of the brain were original: he is considered by many to be the father of modern neuroscience. He was skilled at drawing, and hundreds of his illustrations of brain cells are still used for educational purposes today.
As a child he was transferred between many different schools because of his poor behavior and authoritarian attitude. An extreme example of his precociousness and rebelliousness is his imprisonment at the age of eleven for destroying the town gate with a homemade cannon.”
Centella asiatica, commonly centella (Sinhala: ගොටුකොල, gotu kola in Sinhala, Mandukaparni in Sanskritमधुकपर्णी,Kannada (ಒಂದೆಲಗ). Tamil: வல்லாரை, vallarai in Tamil, Kodakan in Malayalam(കൊടകന്)), is a small, herbaceous, annual plant of the family Mackinlayaceae or subfamily Mackinlayoideae of family Apiaceae, and is native to India, Sri Lanka, northern Australia, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea, and other parts of Asia. It is used as a medicinal herb in Ayurvedic medicine, traditional African medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine. Botanical synonyms include Hydrocotyle asiatica L. and Trisanthus cochinchinensis (Lour.).
Centella is a mild adaptogen, is mildly antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antiulcerogenic, anxiolytic, nervine and vulnerary, and can act as a cerebral tonic, a circulatory stimulant, and a diuretic.
Centella asiatica may be useful in the treatment of anxiety.
In Thailand, tisanes of the leaves are used as an afternoon stimulant. A decoction of juice from the leaves is thought to relieve hypertension. A poultice of the leaves is also used to treat open sores.
Richard Lucas claimed in a book published in 1966(second edition in 1979) that a subspecies “Hydrocotyle asiatica minor” allegedly from Sri Lanka also called fo ti tieng, contained a longevity factor called ‘youth Vitamin X’ said to be ‘a tonic for the brain and endocrine glands’ and maintained that extracts of the plant help circulation and skin problems. However according to medicinal herbalist Michael Moore, it appears that there is no such subspecies and no Vitamin X is known to exist.
Several scientific reports have documented Centella asiatica’s ability to aid wound healing which is responsible for its traditional use in leprosy. Upon treatment with Centella asiatica, maturation of the scar is stimulated by the production of type I collagen. The treatment also results in a marked decrease in inflammatory reaction and myofibroblast production.
The isolated steroids from the plant also have been used to treat leprosy. In addition, preliminary evidence suggests that it may have nootropic effects. Centella asiatica is used to revitalize the brain and nervous system, increase attention span and concentration, and combat aging. Centella asiatica also has antioxidant properties. It works for venous insufficiency. It is used in Thailand for opium detoxification.
Followers of Sri Sri Thakur Anukulchandra, commonly known as Satsangees, all over the world take one or two fresh leaves with plenty of water in the morning after morning rituals. This is prescribed by Sri Sri Thakur himself.
Many reports show the medicinal properties of C. asiatica extract in a wide range of disease conditions, such as diabetic microangiopathy, edema, venous hypertension, and venous insufficiency. The role of C. asiatica extract in the treatment of memory enhancement and other neurodegenerative disorders is also well documented. The first report concerning the antitumor property of C. asiatica extract was on its growth inhibitory effects on the development of solid and ascites tumors, which lead to increased life span of tumor-bearing mice. The authors also suggested the extract directly impeded the DNA synthesis. “In our study, C. asiatica extract showed an obvious dose dependent inhibition of cell proliferation in breast cancer cells.”
The Effects of Gotu Kola on the Brain
Traditionally, Gotu kola has been used as a brain tonic to support memory. It has been called a “brain food” and has been recommended for overstressed people, mood, to improve reflexes and to support feelings of calmness. Gotu kola has also been studied in humans and was found to have a positive influence on enhancing peripheral circulation.
Scientific research into Gotu kola extracts and its effects on the brain really only began in earnest in the past decade. In 2002, Gotu kola water extracts were administered to rats, where it improved their cognitive function in terms of learning and memory in a standard shuttle box avoidance and step through test. Brain levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), an indicator of overall oxidative stress, was reduced, and brain levels of the endogenous antioxidant glutathione were increased.
Scientists Identify Gene Required for Nerve Regeneration | Sci-News.com
A gene that is associated with regeneration of injured nerve cells has been identified by a team of researchers led by Prof Melissa Rolls of Penn State University.
The team has found that a mutation in a single gene can entirely shut down the process by which axons – the parts of the nerve cell that are responsible for sending signals to other cells – regrow themselves after being cut or damaged.
“We are hopeful that this discovery will open the door to new research related to spinal-cord and other neurological disorders in humans,” said Prof Rolls, who co-authored a paper published online in the journal Cell Reports.
“Axons, which form long bundles extending out from nerve cells, ideally survive throughout an animal’s lifetime. To be able to survive, nerve cells need to be resilient and, in the event of injury or simple wear and tear, some can repair damage by growing new axons,” Prof Rolls explained.
Previous studies suggested that microtubules – the intracellular ‘highways’ along which basic building blocks are transported – might need to be rebuilt as an important step in this type of repair.
“In many ways this idea makes sense: in order to grow a new part of a nerve, raw materials will be needed, and the microtubule highways will need to be organized to take the new materials to the site of growth,” Prof Rolls said.
The team therefore started to investigate the role of microtubule-remodeling proteins in axon regrowth after injury. In particular, they focused on a set of proteins that sever microtubules into small pieces. Out of this set, a protein named spastin emerged as a key player in axon regeneration.
Above: In fruit flies with two normal copies of the spastin gene, a team of scientists led by Prof Melissa Rolls of Penn State University found that severed axons were able to regenerate. However, in fruit flies with two or even only one abnormal spastin gene, the severed axons were not able to regenerate (Melissa Rolls / Penn State University)
Original paper here.
Video Game With Biofeedback Teaches Children to Curb Anger
Side Note: I find the application of these studies very important especially when it comes to early education. I feel like the future to how we control and use our emotions to benefit rather than be our dismay lies in studies like these that aim to train our brains to regulate and control emotions like any system would monitor itself for peak efficiency. If we can use the applicability and entertainment in video games to make children who have severe anger problems a thing of the past we could be tackling a major problem within early childhood, education and or both. A child with controlled emotions is more likely to focus naturally on the tasks at hand without the need of drugs that may or may not just worsen his or her situation and put them early on into drug reliance.
Children with serious anger problems can be helped by a video game that helps them learn how to regulate their emotions, according to a new study.
Image: Young Spock inside a Vulcan virtual reality educational system Credit: Star Trek (2009)
Noticing that children with anger control problems are often uninterested in psychotherapy, but eager to play video games, Jason Kahn, Ph.D., and Joseph Gonzalez-Heydrich, M.D., at Boston Children’s Hospital developed “RAGE Control,” a video game with a biofeedback component that helps children practice emotional control skills.
The game involves shooting at enemy spaceships while avoiding shooting at friendly ones. As children play, a monitor on one finger tracks their heart rate and displays it on the computer screen. When the heart rate goes above a certain level, players lose their ability to shoot at the enemy spaceships. To improve their game, they must learn to keep calm, the researchers explain.
“The connections between the brain’s executive control centers and emotional centers are weak in people with severe anger problems,” said Gonzalez-Heydrich, chief of Psychopharmacology at Boston Children’s and senior investigator on the study. “However, to succeed at RAGE Control, players have to learn to use these centers at the same time to score points.”
The study, led by first author Peter Ducharme, M.S.W., a clinical social worker at Boston Children’s, compared two groups of 9- to 17-year-old children admitted to the hospital’s Psychiatry Inpatient Service who had high levels of anger. To qualify for the study, the children had to have a normal IQ and not need a medication change during the five-day study period.
One group, with 19 children, received standard treatments for anger, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, presentation of relaxation techniques and social skills training for five consecutive business days. The second group, with 18 children, got these same treatments, but spent the last 15 minutes of their psychotherapy session playing RAGE Control.
After five sessions, the gamers were significantly better at keeping their heart rate down, the researchers report. They also showed clinically significant decreases in anger scores on the State Trait Anger Expression Inventory-Child and Adolescent (STAXI-CA). Specific decreases were seen in the intensity of anger at a particular time, the frequency of angry feelings over time, and the expression of anger towards others or objects. The gamers also had a decrease in suppressed, internalized anger, according to the researchers.
Gender stereotypes and nature vs. nurture
Leading neuroscientist Professor Simon Baron Cohen will be taking part in a debate at this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas on whether science has been used to promote gender stereotypes.
Neuroscientists have been criticised in recent books by feminist writers such as Natasha Walter’s Living Dolls for bolstering gender stereotypes.
Simon Baron Cohen, professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, says critics who argue that gender difference is all a question of socialisation are in danger of oversimplifying the interaction of biology and experience. He says: “Some gender differences in the mind and behaviour may in part be the result of our biology (prenatal hormones and genes) interacting with our experience. The old nature vs. nurture debate is absurdly simplistic and a moderate position recognises the interaction of both.
He adds that he is wary of neuroscience research being used to bolster traditional gender stereotypes. He says: “The main goal of neuroscience is to understand the mind, and is certainly not to bolster traditional views.”
The aim of the Festival, which is in its fourth year, is to celebrate the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Most of the over 170 events running during the Festival are free, but some debates may need to be prebooked.
More information: www.cam.ac.uk/festivalofideas
*Gender differences: nature vs nurture takes place from 7.30-9pm at the Babbage Theatre, Downing Street on 30 October.
Wow this is actually a really interesting and hot topic right now, I would definitely be interested in hearing more of his opinion. And as our culture continues to rapidly diversify we have to accommodate to the newer groups to avoid pointless social clashes in every aspect including scientific.
Differentiating neuronal cells (actin, microtubules and DNA)
Image by Dr. Torsten Wittmann (The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California)
Feed your Brain
Although the average brain only weighs 3lbs it uses 20% of the calories we eat. To maximise the benefits of food to the brain, think about including the following:
1. Foods to boost concentration – Anything containing mega-3 oils. For example, oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds.
2. Foods to improve mood – Anything that’s rich in dopamine or serotonin. For example, beets, soybeans, almonds, eggs, meat, grains and dark chocolate.
3. Foods to boost memory – Anything that’s rich in acetylcholine.
Some Interesting Info on the Brain
1. You need oxygen and glucose to exert your will – so it’s harder say ‘no’ when you’re feeling tired.
2. Although most of us are either left brained or right brained, we all switch sides briefly every 90 to 120 minutes.
3. The brain is approximately 75% water.
1. You need oxygen and glucose to exert your will – so it’s harder say ‘no’ when you’re feeling tired.
2. Although most of us are either left brained or right brained, we all switch sides briefly every 90 to 120 minutes.
3. The brain is approximately…
June 29, 2012
Scientists at Arizona State University have discovered that honey bees may teach us about basic connections between taste perception and metabolic disorders in humans.
Honey bees may help scientists understand how food-related behaviors interact…
ScienceDaily (June 19, 2012) — Fish cannot display symptoms of autism, schizophrenia, or other human brain disorders. However, a team of Whitehead Institute and MIT scientists has shown that zebrafish can be a useful tool for studying the genes that contribute to such…
Meet Phineas Gage, more commonly known as neuroscience’s most intriguing case.
On September 18th, 1848, the unfortunate 25-year-old railroad worker was using an iron rod to tamp down blasting powder when it exploded, sending the 43-inch-long, 13-pound cylinder through his left cheek and out the top of his head.
While the accident was certainly ghastly, what baffled scientists was both Gage’s survival, and, even stranger, his profound personality changes following the incident. John Harlow, a doctor who treated the once-affable Gage, wrote that he “could not stick to plans, uttered ‘the grossest profanity’ and showed ‘little deference for his fellows,’” as reported by Smithsonian magazine in 2010. Through the remainder of his life, Gage worked at a stable in New Hampshire and then as a stagecoach driver in Chile before moving to San Francisco. He died there after a series of seizures 12 years after the accident.
Even now, 152 years after Gage’s death, he still remains intriguing to neuroscientists - so intriguing, in fact, that his head is prompting a new wave of research. In a new study, published in the May 16 issue of the journal PLoS One, scientists at UCLA used brain-mapping data from computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to determine the specific damage inflicted on the neurological “pathways” in Gage’s brain.
“What we found was a significant loss of white matter connecting the left frontal regions and the rest of the brain,” said study co-author Jack Van Horn, an assistant professor of neurology at UCLA. “We suggest that the disruption of the brain’s ‘network’ considerably compromised it [the white matter]. This may have had an even greater impact on Mr. Gage than the damage to the cortex alone in terms of his purported personality change.”
Only about 4% of Gage’s cerebral cortex was directly affected by the rod, the study showed. But more than 10 percent of the white matter was damaged. The white matter is the fatty tissue within the brain that coordinates communication between its different regions.
In addition to helping explain Gage’s deterioration, the study showcases the power of brain mapping - a technology that neurologists believe will lead eventually to an understanding of the links between the brain’s “wiring” and specific mental disorders. Even more intriguingly, the study managed to draw parallels between Gage’s case and several modern neurological traumas, including Alzheimer’s disease.
He may have died in 1860, but I have a feeling that we haven’t seen the last of Phineas Gage - or his ghastly accident’s lasting contributions to modern neuroscience.
For more information on Gage and the study, check out the PopSci article here.
Upper image: A computer-generated 3D rendering of the iron rod through Gage’s brain as estimated from his skull (which is on display at Warren Anatomical Museum in Boston, along with the tamping rod).
Lower Images: Left, a circular representation of cortical anatomy and WM connectivity in a normal 25 to 36-year-old male. Right, the mean connectivity affected by the presence of the tamping iron combined across subjects. (And an estimate of Gage’s neural connectivity).
Phineas Gage is one of my favorite psychological cases.
Fascinating observations from Brookshire and Casasanto:
According to decades of research on affective motivation in the human brain, approach motivational states are supported primarily by the left hemisphere and avoidance states by the right hemisphere. The underlying cause of this specialization, however, has remained unknown. Here we conducted a first test of the Sword and Shield Hypothesis (SSH), according to which the hemispheric laterality of affective motivation depends on the laterality of motor control for the dominant hand (i.e., the “sword hand,” used preferentially to perform approach actions) and the nondominant hand (i.e., the “shield hand,” used preferentially to perform avoidance actions).
To determine whether the laterality of approach motivation varies with handedness, we measured alpha-band power (an inverse index of neural activity) in right- and left-handers during resting-state electroencephalography and analyzed hemispheric alpha-power asymmetries as a function of the participants’ trait approach motivational tendencies. Stronger approach motivation was associated with more left-hemisphere activity in right-handers, but with more right-hemisphere activity in left-handers.
The hemispheric correlates of approach motivation reversed between right- and left-handers, consistent with the way they typically use their dominant and nondominant hands to perform approach and avoidance actions. In both right- and left-handers, approach motivation was lateralized to the same hemisphere that controls the dominant hand. This covariation between neural systems for action and emotion provides initial support for the SSH.
Near-Death Experiences are Lucid Dreams, Experiment Finds
In a new exercise by a California organization that studies lucid dreaming, volunteers have been conditioned to dream near-death experiences, including the classic scenario of flying toward a light at the end of a tunnel. The researchers say their experiment demonstrates that these heavenly visions must be products of the human mind rather than supernatural phenomena.
In the sleep experiment at the Out-Of-Body Experience Research Center in Los Angeles, four groups of 10 to 20 volunteers were trained to perform a series of mental steps upon awakening during the night that might lead them to have out-of-body experiences. If able to “separate” from their bodies, they were then conditioned to try dreaming about floating through a tunnel toward a bright light. Eighteen of the volunteers said they were able to dream such an experience.
“Some of the test subjects not only succeeded in reproducing the out-of-body flight through a tunnel, but also enjoyed the ecstasy typical of the experience, and even flew all the way to the light and met their deceased relatives there,” center leader Michael Raduga stated in a press release about the work, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
More than 8 million Americans have had a near-death experience, and they most often occur during states of anesthesia-induced sleep, according to the center. Prior work by neurologists, including Kevin Nelson of the University of Kentucky, suggests that NDEs are indeed generated by the same brain mechanisms that cause lucid dreams. Nelson’s research shows that both types of experiences arise when part of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal region — our “logical center,” which is usually active only when we’re awake — becomes active during REM sleep, allowing extremely vivid dreams that seem to be happening in real life. He calls the transitional state between dreaming and wakefulness a “borderland of consciousness” and believes it is in this mixed state that lucid dreams and NDEs occur.
With Nelson’s research in mind, Raduga designed his experiment to determine if volunteers could be coached to dream up NDEs when in the transitional phase between sleep and waking. This would demonstrate that reports of NDEs, which are commonly cited as proof of the supernatural, really are just lucid dreams.
Volunteers who successfully generated NDEs described their experiences for the researchers. One participant, identified by the center asNadezhda S., stated: “I was able to leave my body after a couple of tries. Now that I was out of my body, I wanted to see the tunnel and it immediately appeared in front of me … Once I flew to the end of that tunnel … I saw my deceased husband there in the spirit. We spoke for several minutes. His words, touch, bearing, and feelings were real, just like during his life. Later on, when I felt it was time to leave, I went up to the tunnel, jumped and gently landed in my body.”
For more on Dreams, visit ikenbot.tumblr.com/dreams
Welcome to Platform 9¾
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