From the Salk Institute for Biological Studies Jan. 2002
According to accepted dogma, the brain responds to sensory experiences somewhat like an electronic bucket brigade, with incoming signals passed from one region to the next in a somewhat linear fashion.
This somewhat passive role is now being challenged by new studies led by neuroscientists and computational biologists at The Salk Institute. Instead of the bucket brigade metaphor, these scientists see the brain more as an improvisational jazz band adjusting its ongoing parts to the arrival of new voices or themes.
“Our data indicate the brain ‘at rest’ is more like a group of jazz musicians warming up – each instrument or brain area is playing a different tune,” said Terrence Sejnowski, professor of computational neuroscience at Salk and senior author of the study that appears in the current issue of the journal Science.
“Then, when a lead musician starts playing a new theme (i.e. stimulus), most of the other instruments adjust their rhythm,” says first author Scott Makeig, a senior staff scientist in Sejnowski’s laboratory and director of the Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego.
The result suggests a far more dynamic view of the brain’s activity than is envisioned in standard analyses. It also opens new avenues to explore certain brain dysfunctions including schizophrenia and autism.
“We know that some important brain responses are too small or missing in autism. This analysis may help us to understand why,” said Eric Courchesne, a professor with UCSD’s School of Medicine and one of the study’s authors.
“In terms of Terry’s metaphor, there’s a good possibility that in autism the coherence of the band is missing. There is no reorganization, and the instruments continue to play their own tunes, ” he added.
Music on the brain:
Researchers explore the biology of music
A musician, composer, and neuroscientist, Mark Tramo studies how the brain perceives music and responds to it emotionally. http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2001/03.22/04-music.html