Category Archives: Anatomy and Physiology

Music Origins: Mesopotamia, American Gospel and the Neurology of Faith, Part II

Image courtesy of Andrew Newberg, NPR.

Image courtesy of Andrew Newberg, NPR.

In Part I we looked at the importance of music in Mesopotamia and its specific role in communing with the gods. Fast forwarding nearly four millennia we found a remarkable similarity in the strains of American gospel music and the belief that the ecstasy of song enables the Holy Spirit to enter the bodies of the faithful. What is the nature of this willingness to give up one’s self to a higher being? How does music play a part? Is rapture—a potent driving force among believers—real?  Let’s look further at the reason for this music/spiritual connection by venturing inside the anatomy of the brain and as well exploring humankind’s long and precarious evolution of mind and body. Continue reading

Happy Valentine’s Day! The Power of Love (Pssst—It’s All in the Eyes and Nose)

393px-Red_roseRed roses are synonymous with love, and have been for centuries.  But there’s an interesting story behind the tales of starry-eyed lovers and their proclamations of everlasting romance.  The red rose it seems, has as much to do with our eyes and nose as it has to do with affairs of the heart.

First, let’s take a look at the flower that started it all:  the beauteous and aromatic rose. Roses can be traced back 35 million years according to fossil evidence.  Roses were growing wild in many places as diverse as Persia and in what is now Colorado in the United States.  As early as the 11th century BCE the Chinese were cultivating flowers of all sorts.  In fact, China has incredible biodiversity and boasts 93 species and 144 varieties of roses that are native to its habitats.[1]  China became the dominant breeder and purveyor of roses until around 300 years ago, when Europe took the lead in cultivation and breeding.[2] Continue reading

Merry Christmas! The History—and Neuroscience—of Christmas Caroling

Image courtesy of deltamike on Flickr.

Image courtesy of deltamike on Flickr.

Caroling has been a popular pastime to celebrate Christmas for hundreds of years.  Indeed, chanting and song have been a part of rituals and celebrations from some of the earliest of societies.  Whether found in the first hollowed bone flute and percussive tree stump or the widely stylized play lists of today, music has been embedded in human culture.  And as contemporary studies show, our responses to music are not just attuned to auditory preferences and social context.  Music is really a “brain thing.” Continue reading