Archive | Neuroesthetics RSS feed for this section

Quote of the Day: Mingus on Creativity

26 Sep

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.

– Charles Mingus

How to Apply Compassion in the Workplace

12 May

Chade-Meng Tan speaks of everyday compassion at Google. According to Meng compassion works in 3 steps:

The first step is attention training. Attention is the basis of all higher cognitive and emotional abilities. Therefore, any curriculum for training emotion intelligence has to begin with attention training. The idea here is to train attention to create a quality of mind that is calm and clear at the same time. And this creates the foundation for emotion intelligence. The second step follows the first step.

The second step is developing self-knowledge and self-mastery. So using the supercharged attention from step one, we create a high-resolution perception into the cognitive and emotive processes. What does that mean? It means being able to observe our thoughtstream and the process of emotion with high clarity, objectivity and from a third-person perspective. And once you can do that, you create the kind of self-knowledge that enables self-mastery.

The third step, following the second step, is to create new mental habits. What does that mean? Imagine this. Imagine whenever you meet any other person, any time you meet your person, your habitual, instinctive first thought is, “I want you to be happy. I want you to be happy.” Imagine you can do that. Having this habit, this mental habit, changes everything at work. Because this good will is unconsciously picked up by other people, and it creates trust, and trust creates a lot of good working relationships. And this also creates the conditions for compassion in the workplace. Someday, we hope to open-source “Search Inside Yourself” so that everybody in the corporate world will at least be able to use it as a reference.

Here is the video of his recent TED Talk:

Is Perfect Pitch Hereditary?

2 Sep

Researchers at UCSF have found that musicians with perfect pitch were four times more likely to report a family member with perfect pitch than those without it. According to a recent study published in PNAS, forty eight percent of those with perfect pitch said they had a first degree relative with the skill, while only 14 percent of those without perfect pitch did.The study also identified perfect pitch as a model trait for exploring the relative roles of “nature and nurture” in human behavior.The findings may offer insights into other traits, as well, such as language ability and, more broadly, brain development.

Finding Highlights:

Nature vs. Nurture

Based on the absolute pitch survey and auditory test data collected to date, UCSF learned that the majority of individuals with absolute pitch began formal musical training before age 7. This finding supports the hypothesis that early musical training may be necessary for the development of absolute pitch. However, early musical training alone is not sufficient for development of absolute pitch, because some individuals with musical training initiated before age 7 do not possess absolute pitch. UCSF also observed that absolute pitch aggregates in families, indicating a role for genetic components in its development. It was discovered that a sibling (with early musical training) of an absolute pitch possessor is almost 15 times more likely to possess absolute pitch than is another individual with early musical training but with no family history of absolute pitch.Together, these observations implicate a genetic predisposition to the development of absolute pitch, which, when coupled with an environmental stimulus such as early musical training, can give rise to the perceptual trait.

Changes in Pitch Perception with Age

Absolute pitch possessors sometimes indicate a frustration with their pitch perception as they get older. They sometimes tell us that it goes “off.” It is interesting that this change can be observed and quantified only in people who have absolute pitch!

Distortion in Pitch Perception
By analyzing the vast archive of perceptual data accumulated over the Web, UCSF discovered that absolute pitch possessors tend to err on G# far more than any other tone, an error that occurs only on pure tones. Most often, G# pure tones are misidentified as “A” tones. UCSF researchers hypothesize that this phenomenon reflects the use of A as the universal tuning pitch in Western music. This phenomenon is reminiscent of a property referred to as “perceptual magnet” in language acquisition.

Source: UCSF Absolute Pitch Study website

For More Information:
UCSF Absolute Pitch Study
Perfect Pitch Test
PNAS Abstract

Press Highlights:
BBC Story: Looking for Genetic Perfection

Are We Hardwired for Music

5 Jun

Is a talent for music innate?

How do some people pick up an
instrument and just play what they hear– even without an ability to
read music or knowledge of what notes are being played? How do some
folks learn to read and play while other people are tone deaf.

I have an intellectually challenging job where I am continually
learning new things, I find that while learning bass I am using a
completely different part of my brain. Particularly during lessons I
feel a tremendous brain work out – like the right and left sides are
coming together. My teacher Buddy and I frequently discuss this issue –
the interconnectivity of music, and the brain (and language).

enough, Sharon Begley recently wrote about this subject in The Wall
Street Journal (3/31/06) Science Journal article (online subscription required).

Here are a few
snippets of her article where she also provides insight into Harvard
professor Stephen Mithen latest book "The Singing Neanderthal"

starts with evidence that music is not merely a side effect of
intelligence and language, as some argue. Instead, recent discoveries
suggest that music lays sole claim to specific neural real estate.
Consider musical savants. Although learning-disabled or retarded, they
have astounding musical abilities. One savant could hardly speak or
understand words, yet he played flawlessly a simple piano melody from
memory despite hearing it only once. In an encore, he added left-hand
chords and transposed it into a minor key.

says Prof. Mithen, "can exist within the brain in the absence of
language," a sign that the two evolved independently. And since
language impairment does not wipe out musical ability, the latter "must
have a longer evolutionary history."

the opposite of musical savantism, people with "amusia" can’t perceive
changes in rhythm, identify melodies they’ve heard before or recognize
changes in pitch. Since they have normal hearing and language, the
problem must lie in brain circuits that are music-specific.

evidence that the brain has dedicated, inborn musical circuits is that
even babies have musical preferences, finds Sandra Trehub of the
University of Toronto. They listen longer to perfect fifths and perfect
fourths, and look pained by minor thirds.

fact that listeners hear the same emotion in a given musical score is
something a Neanderthal crooner might have exploited. Music can
manipulate people’s emotional states (think of liturgical music,
martial music or workplace music). Happy people are more cooperative
and creative. By fostering cooperation and creativity among bands of
early, prelanguage human ancestors, music would have given them a
survival edge. "If you can manipulate other people’s emotions," says
Prof. Mithen, "you have an advantage…."

we hardwired for music? Can picking up an instrument later in life be
the next "brain buster" activity to help slow the brain aging process?

Let me know what you think…

Technorati Tags: ,