While digging around for some articles on music and the brain this week, I came across this fascinating article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from back in 2006. The article discusses some of the strong scientific evidence that suggests music is more than simply a byproduct of human intelligence, but is deeply rooted in human evolution.
There's plenty of evidence to support this. We know early humans made instruments from animal bones, but music may have played a more important role than simple entertainment. From the article:
"Music gives biologists fits. Its ubiquity in human cultures, and strong evidence that the brain comes preloaded with musical circuits, suggest that music is as much a product of human evolution as, say, thumbs."
Some scientists believe that music created a social communities that helped humans thrive and survive. Music comes hardwired in our brains from birth, and we know it's separate from the language centers of our brain. In fact, many music therapy techniques are based solely on this convenient fact. When language is lost due to a brain injury, often times music can be used to rewire the brain to regain lost language skills. Amazing.
As I was reading the article, I couldn't help but think about a phrase I'm fond of saying:
Music therapy sounds very unusual. Until you see it in person. Then you realize it's one of the most intuitive things you've ever seen.
Music elicits a response in us because it's in our nature. It engages us from the day we're born.
It's not magic. It's not even cultural. It's part of the very fabric that makes us human.
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Image credit: José-Manuel Benito (Wikipedia Commons)