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May 21st, 2009
Music and the Brain
Scientist Oliver Sacks on Musical Cognition

Oliver Sacks: Now there’s no one musical center, there are 15 or 20 different systems in the brain. But in general many of the musical parts of the brain, if I could put it this way, are close to the memory parts and close to the emotional parts. And so music tends to embed itself in memory and to evoke emotions with an immediacy beyond, I think, of any other stimulus with the possible exceptions of smells. But in particular when people really have chills and thrills and sort of their hair stands on end with music enraptured, then you can find the particular systems of the brain rewards systems are activated, the same systems which are activated when one falls in love, or is overwhelmed with beauty generally. But that being said, that leaves the problem “So what’s beauty?” It’s just not sort of pleasure, it’s the whole nature of aesthetic and beauty and the sublime, which is so overwhelming in music or can be.

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