Brain cells tune in to music

From Nature:Music_2

The discovery of a group of pitch-sensitive cells in the brain has sent reverberations through the field of music perception. Researchers think that studying these neurons will reveal how our minds grasp songs and speech. In recent years, researchers have looked at the role played by the primary auditory cortex, the brain region known to digest sounds. Human brain scans have indicated that a peripheral bit of this brain region is active when we try to identify pitch. But no one could find cells that responded to specific frequencies, leaving it a mystery how we interpret them. A study with marmoset monkeys (Callithrix jacchus) has now shown up specific neurons that do just that. “This is the first evidence that there are individual neurons in the brain that are encoding for pitch,” explains Josh McDermott, a music psychologist based in Cambridge at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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