Extra Credit\Sound + Science Symposium\Marian Portugal

Brain Networks for Tracking Musical Structure

Petr Janata

UC Davis

Dept. of Psychology & The Center for Mind and Brain

I attended the 11 AM – 12 PM lecture on Friday, March 6.  The guest speaker was Peter Janata from UC Davis’s Department of Psychology and The Centre for Mind and Brain, and his subject was about brain networks for tracking musical structure.  He explained that his main reason for this topic of research, which is also his hypothesis is that when people are engaged in music (such as simple clapping/dancing to music, performing music, anything that relates to music), they are obviously interacting with an external environment/stimulus.  Because of this, the brain has to be affected, and Dr. Janata is researching exactly how it is affected.

The part of his lecture that I thought was the most interesting was when he described tonal space.  Tonal space is a way Dr. Janata showed music on a surface.  There are several different chords scattered on a surface, and a variety of colors spread out onto that space.  These colors range from red to blue.  When an area is red, the chord it is covering is playing an active part in the music.  When an area, is blue, the chord it is covering is not playing an active part in the music.  As the song progresses, the colors move around the space to cover different areas to show which chords are being played more or less.  When Dr. Janata showed us an example by playing a song by Three Doors Down, the tonal space became an artistic representation of music.  He calls his work the “Psychology of Music,” and uses models to identify parts of the brain that are following the same temporal structure of the music.  In other words, he is trying to find brain waves/patterns that match the music’s movement at the same time of the music’s progression. 

Musical Space 

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