"Music and Biological Evolution" with Aniruddh D. Patel

Mon, 01/11/2010 - 5:30pm
Event Type: 
Guest Lecture

"Music and Biological Evolution"
Exploring music as a biologically powerful invention, or "transformative technology of the mind"  with Aniruddh D. Patel, the Esther J. Burnham Senior Fellow in Theoretical Neurobiology, The Neurosciences Institute

SiCa's Center for Arts, Science and Technology is pleased to present our Winter Quarter "Music and the Brain Forum" featuring three of the most prominent researchers in neuroscience and music. We look forward to seeing you at this first of three lectures.

About the talk: "Music and Biological Evolution"

Music puzzled Darwin because it is ubiquitous in human culture, yet serves no obvious biological function. Darwin theorized that music evolved via processes of sexual selection, and began a tradition of adaptationist theorizing about music that continues to this day. Skeptics (including William James and Steven Pinker) have countered that music is a byproduct of our intelligent brains and is biologically useless. Modern discussions of the evolution of music are dominated by this "adaptation vs. byproduct" debate. I will argue that neither of these alternatives is supported by research on music and the brain. I believe that current research supports a different theoretical perspective which views music as a biologically powerful invention, or "transformative technology of the mind."

About Aniruddh D. Patel

Patel is the Esther J. Burnham Senior Fellow in Theoretical Neurobiology at The Neurosciences Institute. Patel received a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University, where he studied with Edward O. Wilson. He joined The Neurosciences Institute in 1997, where he is now the Esther J. Burnham Senior Fellow. His research focuses on how the brain processes music and language, especially what the similarities and differences between the two reveal about each other and about the brain itself. He has pursued this topic with a variety of techniques, including neuroimaging, theoretical analyses, acoustic research, and comparative studies of nonhuman animals. He has authored over 40 research articles and a scholarly book Music, Language, and the Brain (2008, Oxford Univ. Press), which won the 2008 ASCAP Deems-Taylor Award. He was awarded the 2009 Music Has Power award from the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function in New York City. He is president of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition (2009-2011), and is interested in promoting graduate student involvement in the field of music cognition.

About Music and the Brain

Begun in 2006, the SiCa Center for Arts, Science and Technology's Symposium on Music and the Brain has become an internationally renown and respected interdisciplinary meeting of the world's finest scholars, researchers and practitioners exploring the neuroscience of music.

Past symposia have focused on: brainwave entrainment - how the brain responds to rhythmic stimuli (2006), music, rhythm and the brain - the psychophysical and physiological effects of musical rhythm (2007), emotion from a wide range of perspectives - including the role of pitch, rhythm, timbre, prosody and performance on emotional response to music (2008), and spontaneity and improvisation (2009).

In 2010, Music and the Brain will take the form of a forum featuring talks by Dr. Aniruddh D. Patel, Dr. Mark Tramo MD, and Dr. Petr Janata.

Open to the Public
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