The brain's music system appears to operate with functional independence from the language system-the evidence comes from many case studies...When portions of his left cortex deteriorated, the composer Ravel selectively lost his sense of pitch while retaining his sense of timbre, a deficit that inspired his writing of Bolero, a piece that emphasizes variations in timbre...music and language do, in fact, share some common neural resources, and yet have independent pathways as well...
Consider that at a very early age, babies are thought to be synesthetic, to be unable to differentiate the input from the different senses, and to experience life and the world as a sort of psychedelic union of everything sensory. Babies may see the number five as red, taste cheddar cheeses in D-flat, and smell roses in triangles.
The process of maturation createst distinctions in the neural pathways as connections are cut or pruned. What may have started out as a neuron cluster that responded equally to sights, sound, taste, touch and smell becomes a specialized network. So, too, may music and speech have started in us all with the same neurobiological origins, in the same regions, and using the same specific neural networks. With increasing experience and exposure, the developing infant eventually creates dedicated music pathways and dedicated language pathways. The pathways may share some common resources, as has been proposed most prominently by Ani Patel in his SSIRH-shared syntactic integration resource hypothesis.
My collaborator and friend Vinod Menon, a systems neuroscientist at Stanford Medical School, shared with me an interest in being able to pin down the findings from the koelsch and Freiderici labs, and in being able to provide solid evidence for Patel's SSIRH. For that, we had to use a different method of studying the brain, since the spatial resolution of EEG wasn't fine enough to really pinpoint the neural locus of music syntax.
Because the hemoglobin of the blood is slightly magnetic, changes in the flow of blood can be traced with a machine that can track changes in magnetic properties. This is what a magnetic resonance imaging machine (MRI) is, a giant electromagnet that produces a report showing differences in magnetic properties, which in turn can tell us where, at any given point in time, the blood is flowing in the body. (The research on the development of the first MRI scanners was performed by the British company EMI, financed in large part from their profits on Beatles records. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" might well have been titled "I Want to Scan Your Brain.")...
-This Is Your Brain on Music, Daniel J. Levitin, 126-8
Amazingly, I found this interesting, and over-nerdy, well, a good description of MRI! Synesthetic babies and all, in 2 pages of the book! Enjoy!
Love and light being, Teo Do (Re, Mi, Far....)