Babies Come Into The World With Musical Preferences

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Babies come into the world with musical preferences. They begin to respond to music while still in the womb. At the age of 4 months, dissonant notes at the end of a melody will cause them to squirm and turn away. If they like a tune, they may coo.
Scientists cite such responses as evidence that certain rules for music are wired into the brain, and musicians violate them at the risk of making their audiences squirm. Even the Smashing Pumpkins, a hard-rock group, play by some of the same rules of harmony that Johann Sebastian Bach did in the 18th century.

"Music is in our genes," says Mark Jude Tramo, a musician, prolific songwriter, and neuroscientist at the Harvard Medical School. "Many researchers like myself are trying to understand
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For example, there 's evidence that music can help lower blood pressure and ease pain.

Looking for a music center

A human brain is divided into two hemispheres, and the right hemisphere has been traditionally identified as the seat of music appreciation. However, no one has found a "music center" there, or anywhere else. Studies of musical understanding in people who have damage to either hemisphere, as well as brain scans of people taken while listening to tunes, reveal that music perception emerges from the interplay of activity in both sides of the brain.

Some brain circuits respond specifically to music; but, as you would expect, parts of these circuits participate in other forms of sound processing. For example, the region of the brain dedicated to perfect pitch is also involved in speech perception.

Music and other sounds entering the ears go to the auditory cortex, assemblages of cells just above both ears. The right side of the cortex is crucial for perceiving pitch as well as certain aspects of melody, harmony, timbre, and rhythm. (All the people tested were right-handed, so brain preferences may differ in lefties.)

The left side of the brain in most people excels at processing rapid changes in frequency and intensity, both in music and words. Such rapid changes occur
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