Neuro Stuff

Lourdes gave quite a talk today, and I was utterly fascinated by everything she said. Twenty years or so ago, I was introduced to a study of the effect of music on the brain. If we found music with all the right conditions—tempo, pitch, rhythm—we learned we could achieve a state of brain harmony, hemispheric synchronization, that would let us reach peak concentration. I was ready to dismiss the idea as New Age fluff until I found a piece of music that worked for me. Just as we heard, it’s Mozart, the Adagio from the Gran Partita Suite Number 10. The story is that Mozart wrote it as a wedding gift to his wife, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s sublime. When I really need to focus, concentrate, or just get something done, this is the music I play. It’s amazing how this music centers me and helps me concentrate or work without distraction.

I also had a strong memory of Magister Ludi by Hermann Hesse while Lourdes was talking. I haven’t been able find a citation this afternoon, but I remember that music is really important in the book, and there is some discussion of the primacy of Baroque composers because their preferred tempos matched the human heart rate. If you can help me out, leave a comment.

Lourdes also offered a chance to mention Jill Taylor again. Jill is a neuroanatomist who suffered a stroke. She describes the experience in the video below, in which she shows you exactly where the corpus callosum is and tells you what it’s like when the two sides of the brain can’t work together.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide if Coffitivity, which I found described at The New York Times this week, is a good example of hemispheric synchronization. I’m going to give it a try.


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