Thursday, August 8, 2013

Getting Closer to a Time-Based Understanding of the Brain

In my most recent article in which I continue to try to puzzle out the complex relationships among the brain, the mind that emerges from brain behavior, and the responses to music by both brain and mind, I cited Temple Grandin's "very jaundiced view of the rush to use scanning and imaging technology to observe what the brain is doing." One of the reasons I am so supportive of her position is that I believe strongly that we cannot talk about the "brain on music" (to use that somewhat trivializing phrase of Daniel J. Levitin) without taking time-consciousness into account. However, at the time that Grandin made her observation in her recent book, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum, imaging technology had been confined to snapshots separated by significantly long intervals of time.

If I am to believe Elisabeth Armstrong Moore's post yesterday afternoon to her Cutting Edge blog on CNET, things may be changing. Here is the critical sentence (with hyperlinks) from her article:
So researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Institute of Technology and Advanced Biomedical Imaging at the University of Chieti in Italy are turning to faster technology called magnetoencephalography (MEG) to sample neural activity every 50 milliseconds.
The operative word in that sentence is "activity." By taking those "snapshots" with a finer degree of resolution, we should begin to develop better models of what the brain does, rather than confining our interpretations to currently crude efforts to model the brain in terms of noun-based regions.

This technology is in its infancy; but, for those of us trying to understand not only the nature of mind itself but also the (probably complex) relationship between mind and music, it has the potential to revolutionize the directions of future research.

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