moi non plus =)
MUSIC is not tangible. You can’t eat it, drink it or mate with it. It doesn’t protect against the rain, wind or cold. It doesn’t vanquish predators or mend broken bones. And yet humans have always prized music — or well beyond prized, loved it.
In the modern age we spend great sums of money to attend concerts, download music files, play instruments and listen to our favorite artists whether we’re in a subway or salon. But even in Paleolithic times, people invested significant time and effort to create music, as the discovery of flutes carved from animal bones would suggest.
So why does this thingless “thing” — at its core, a mere sequence of sounds — hold such potentially enormous intrinsic value?
The quick and easy explanation is that music brings a unique pleasure to humans. Of course, that still leaves the question of why. But for that, neuroscience is starting to provide some answers.
More than a decade ago, our research team used brain imaging to show that music that people described as highly emotional engaged the reward system deep in their brains — activating subcortical nuclei known to be important in reward, motivation and emotion. Subsequently we found that listening to what might be called “peak emotional moments” in music — that moment when you feel a “chill” of pleasure to a musical passage — causes the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, an essential signaling molecule in the brain.
When pleasurable music is heard, dopamine is released in the striatum — an ancient part of the brain found in other vertebrates as well — which is known to respond to naturally rewarding stimuli like food and sex and which is artificially targeted by drugs like cocaine and amphetamine.
But what may be most interesting here is when this neurotransmitter is released: not only when the music rises to a peak emotional moment, but also several seconds before, during what we might call the anticipation phase.
The idea that reward is partly related to anticipation (or the prediction of a desired outcome) has a long history in neuroscience. Making good predictions about the outcome of one’s actions would seem to be essential in the context of survival, after all. And dopamine neurons, both in humans and other animals, play a role in recording which of our predictions turn out to be correct.
To dig deeper into how music engages the brain’s reward system, we designed a study to mimic online music purchasing. Our goal was to determine what goes on in the brain when someone hears a new piece of music and decides he likes it enough to buy it.
We used music-recommendation programs to customize the selections to our listeners’ preferences, which turned out to be indie and electronic music, matching Montreal’s hip music scene. And we found that neural activity within the striatum — the reward-related structure — was directly proportional to the amount of money people were willing to spend.
But more interesting still was the cross talk between this structure and the auditory cortex, which also increased for songs that were ultimately purchased compared with those that were not.
Why the auditory cortex? Some 50 years ago, Wilder Penfield, the famed neurosurgeon and the founder of the Montreal Neurological Institute, reported that when neurosurgical patients received electrical stimulation to the auditory cortex while they were awake, they would sometimes report hearing music. Dr. Penfield’s observations, along with those of many others, suggest that musical information is likely to be represented in these brain regions.
The auditory cortex is also active when we imagine a tune: think of the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony — your cortex is abuzz! This ability allows us not only to experience music even when it’s physically absent, but also to invent new compositions and to reimagine how a piece might sound with a different tempo or instrumentation.
We also know that these areas of the brain encode the abstract relationships between sounds — for instance, the particular sound pattern that makes a major chord major, regardless of the key or instrument. Other studies show distinctive neural responses from similar regions when there is an unexpected break in a repetitive pattern of sounds, or in a chord progression. This is akin to what happens if you hear someone play a wrong note — easily noticeable even in an unfamiliar piece of music.
These cortical circuits allow us to make predictions about coming events on the basis of past events. They are thought to accumulate musical information over our lifetime, creating templates of the statistical regularities that are present in the music of our culture and enabling us to understand the music we hear in relation to our stored mental representations of the music we’ve heard.
So each act of listening to music may be thought of as both recapitulating the past and predicting the future. When we listen to music, these brain networks actively create expectations based on our stored knowledge.
Composers and performers intuitively understand this: they manipulate these prediction mechanisms to give us what we want — or to surprise us, perhaps even with something better.
In the cross talk between our cortical systems, which analyze patterns and yield expectations, and our ancient reward and motivational systems, may lie the answer to the question: does a particular piece of music move us?
When that answer is yes, there is little — in those moments of listening, at least — that we value more.
I’m just going to put these here and let them speak for themselves.
A new vending machine has been released which can print any book within minutes.
The Espresso Book Machine has access to 500,000 different books - the same as 23.6 miles of shelf space - and can even churn out a fresh copy of Crime and Punishment in just nine minutes.
Pages are printed at a rate of over 100 per minute and are then pressed, glued and cut to produce a pristine book.
Users simply pick the book they would like on a screen and wait for it to be printed … it certainly is a novel way of getting a new book.
WHO WANTS TO ROAD TRIP WITH ME TO THIS VENDING MACHINE Y/Y?
I think Johannes Gutenberg’s mind would turn to mush and come out of his ears and eyes if he ever saw this.
GRABBY HANDS I WANT
GIVE IT HERE
I might just have died
They installed one of these in my local book store THE WEEK AFTER I MOVED AWAY.
Sony Steps Up in a Big Way at E3
Sony came to E3 prepared. They’ve been touting for months now that the PS4 will be the place for gamers, and today, Sony backed up that statement. But they weren’t without entertainment offerings like their direct competitor. The first thing to mention though, is that the PS4 will be out this holiday season in the US and Europe at $399. (Phew!)
Sony spent a little time discussing their entertainment features on the PS4. Their services included original programming from Sony Pictures and Sony Music. PS4 will also include access to Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited on day one. All of the video services on PS3 (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, MLB TV, NHL Center Ice, etc.) will be present, as well as Red Box Instant, Flixster, and Live Events Viewer.
Sony also gave some love to the PS3 and Vita, highlighting games coming out on both systems within the next year. On Vita there will be:
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate
Final Fantasy X & X-II HD
God of War 1 & 2 HD
The Walking Dead: 400 Days
The Vita will also see a The Walking Dead/Vita bundle.
On PS3, Sony highlighted:
The Last of Us
Beyond: Two Souls
Gran Turismo 6
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate
Grand Theft Auto V
The PS3 also will be getting a bundle with GTA V.
The Playstation 4 was next on deck, with Sony unloading all their guns. To kick off the games, Sony showed back-to-back trailers for the following first-party exclusives:
The Order: 1886 (A fantasy steampunk game set in London made by both Santa Monica Studios and Ready At Dawn Studios, the creators of God of War)
Killzone: Shadow Fall
inFamous: Second Son
The Dark Sorcerer (which is rumored to be merely a tech demo by Quantic Dream)
Sony then showed their indie support some love, first showing off The Witness (an exclusive by the creator of Braid) and Transistor (an exclusive from the creators of Bastion). Next, Sony went rapid-fire, listing off games that will either be console exclusive, or debuted early on PS4. The games shown were:
Don’t Starve (Klei Entertainment)
Mercenary Kings (Tribute Games)
OctoDad: Dadliest Catch (Young Horses)
Secret Ponchos (Switchblade Monkeys)
Ray’s the Dead (Ragtag Studios)
Outlast (Red Barrels)
Oddworld: New and Tasty (Oddworld Inhabitants)
Galaxy (17-Bit Games)
After the indie developers, Square-Enix took the stage to announce that Final Fantasy Versus XIII was still in development and has been renamed Final Fantasy XV. Square-Enix also revealed that the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III is finally on its way.
Sony showed more third-party support by showing off more in-game footage for Watch_Dogs, Elder Scrolls Online (as well as announcing early beta exclusivity to PS4), Destiny, and announced a new Mad Max game.
After the games talk was done, Sony clarified that the PS4 will have no restrictions on used games, will have no online requirements, and that games will require no authentication; completely differentiating themselves from Microsoft and the Xbox One.
With a strong showing of games, support for gamers with its lack of restrictions and more affordable price, it’s hard to argue the strength of Sony’s presentation. It all ends up coming down to the individual consumer and what games you want to play, but in a worst-case scenario for Sony, the playing ground is even. How do you feel about Sony’s E3 briefing? Will you be buying a PS4 or an Xbox One? Stay tuned for any more announcements from E3 and a recap of Nintendo’s Direct video tomorrow on VGN.