In Friday’s (12/18) Wall Street Journal, Stuart Isacoff ponders questions being investigated by neuroscientists, in particular those focusing on the arts. “Lately much of its focus has been on the arts, and a spate of best-selling books has hit the marketplace with the promise of unraveling the secret of music’s enduring power. However, an abundance of brain scans, experimental studies and case histories has, in the end, failed to answer certain vital questions: What is music? Where can we find it in the brain? Why does it do what it does to us? The brain is, in essence, a musical instrument—taking bits of material from a world of chaos, then shaping and modulating them into one graceful, lyrical stream. Yet, despite some scientific success in mapping its discrete compartments, it is an organ that resists efforts to render its workings in black and white. Cognition involves processes that are simply too wide-ranging and complex to be assigned to a single anatomical location.” Isacoff also reports on a recent conference on “Emotion, Music & the Brain” held at the State University of New York’s Purchase College Conservatory of Music in Westchester in collaboration with the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function at the Bronx’s Beth Abraham Hospital.

Posted December 23, 2009