Melodies to the ears and brain: Our musical instincts are innate, study says

  • People
  • Tuesday, 27 Feb 2024

Cognitive functions for music form spontaneously as a result of processing auditory information received from nature, the researchers found. — AFP

MUSIC seems to be a language that everyone understands. But the scientific community is unable to explain precisely where this natural sensitivity to this art form comes from. A South Korean study provides some insight into this transcultural phenomenon.

Research has long sought to explain why music has always been present in all cultures. It is known that several areas of the brain are involved in the perception of sound, including speech and music.

In 2020, French-Canadian researchers came to the conclusion that neurons in the right auditory cortex are involved in music recognition, while those in the left auditory cortex are more involved in language processing.

Even so, there are still grey areas in the processing of musical information. To shed light on these, researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology used an artificial neural network to see how our brains process music.

They used AudioSet, a vast collection of sound data provided by Google, to teach this network to listen to various sounds (animals, machines, music, etc.).

The academics found that certain neurons in the network responded selectively to music. They showed low levels of response to sounds that were not musical in nature. Conversely, they showed high sensitivity to various forms of music, both instrumental and vocal. The research team concluded that these artificial neurons behaved like those in the human auditory cortex. For example, they were less receptive to melodies cut into short intervals. And this was true regardless of the musical genre.

The researchers concluded that neurons linked to musical instinct develop spontaneously, without the need for training in the fourth art. "Our findings support the notion that ecological adaptation may initiate various functional tunings in the brain, providing insight into how the universality of music and other innate cognitive functions arises," the researchers write in their paper, published in the journal Nature Communications.

This research has its limitations, as it does not take into account the developmental process that follows the learning of music. But it represents a scientific breakthrough in our understanding of this innate relationship with music. – AFP Relaxnews

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