Keynote Preview: Every Brain Needs Music

by User Not Found | Aug 14, 2020

Every Brain Needs Music


Larry Sherman

What does creating, performing, and listening to music do to your brain?

Larry S. Sherman, a professor of neuroscience at Oregon Health and Science University and the Oregon National Primate Research Center, will be a keynote speaker at the virtual Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference this November. He will  share what neuroscience tell us about how music changes the brain. 

Heather Thorstensen: Why did you start researching what music does to the brain?

Larry S. Sherman: I have played piano for most of my life but also have had a life-long interest in neuroscience, dating back to ninth grade when I had the opportunity to work after school in a neuroscience lab at the University of California, San Diego. Several years ago I was playing piano at a social function for my division, and was asked if I would be interested in giving a talk and maybe playing a little music for a public group that was interested in neuroscience. I spent a few months reading everything I could get my hands on, and decided to incorporate music, stories, and some humor into the talk. I thought that would be the only time I would give this presentation, but was immediately asked to give it again to several local groups. I have now presented this talk hundreds of times, adding new data as it becomes available, in five different countries.

HT: What are some of topics that people can expect to hear from you during this talk?

I'll discuss ideas about the origins of music, data suggesting that we have music-specific areas in our brains, how the brain processes music when we listen to it, how the brain composes and improvises, and what happens in the brain when we practice instrumental music. I will focus on how some of the changes that come with music are important for brain development and how they have the potential to overcome or limit some of the effects seen in neurodegenerative diseases. 

HT: Your talk will involve live music. Why are you incorporating it as part of your talk?

 Having music in a talk is fun! But I also use it to illustrate a number of points about how music can influence brain function.

Pictured above: Larry S. Sherman

Learn more about Sherman's talk and the virtual Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference

Heather Thorstensen is the manager of communications at Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society. 

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