Brain specialization for music

  • Peretz I
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Abstract

Brain specialization for music refers to the possibility that the hu-man brain is equipped with neural networks that are dedicated to the process-ing of music. Finding support for the existence of such music-specific networks suggests that music may have biological roots. Conversely, the discovery that music may have systematic associations with other cognitive domains or vari-able brain organization across individuals supports the view that music is a cul-tural artifact. Currently, the evidence favors the biological perspective. There are numerous behavioral indications that music-specific networks are isolable in the brain. These neuropsychological observations are briefly reviewed here with special emphasis on a new condition, that of congenital amusia (also com-monly referred to as tone deafness). The notion that music might have biological foundations has only recently gained legitimacy. Over the past 30 years, music has mostly been studied as a cultural prod-uct. Musicologists have been analyzing each musical system in the context of its spe-cific culture. Neuroscientists and psychologists have considered music as a convenient window to the general functioning of the human brain. However, neurop-sychological observations have consistently and recurrently suggested that music might well be distinct from other cognitive functions, in being subserved by special-ized neural networks. As such, music might be viewed as pertaining more to biology than to culture. The goal of the present paper is to review the neuropsychological ev-idence that supports the biological perspective.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Amusia
  • Brain
  • Music
  • Pitch

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Authors

  • Isabelle Peretz

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