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Mindful : December 2014
listen to often leaves the most (and most robust) templates. With every note we hear we seek a match in our memory and figure out what musi- cal phrase is likely to come next, comparing what we’re hearing in real time to those templates, “forming continu- ous expectations of how the next sound will unfold before it is heard,” Zatorre said. When what we’re hearing fits the stored templates, the musical expectations of the reward-prediction circuits are met. “The listener feels fulfilled after hea ring the sound events they expected or craved. Dopamine is released,” Zatorre said. In short, the music moves us. If what we’re hea ring is famil- iar, there’s a n exact match to the template in our memory. Once we know a piece, “the predictive factor becomes more enhanced, which has the potential to make that piece even more rewa rding,” Zatorre explained—finally giving me a scientific basis for declining invitations to concerts of music I’ve never heard: if I don’t know it, I won’t like it. When we’re listening to a piece for the first time, the match is to the general template for rock or classical or other norms of our culture. The musically unsophisticated (guilty as charged) have fewer stored templates, so they struggle to appreciate new pieces even in a genre they enjoy. Musi- cal sophisticates are more likely to find a partial match between a piece heard for the first time and a musical mem- ory, and so enjoy unfamiliar pieces. Either way, each generation tends to prefer the music they heard in their youth when these expectation templates were forming. Zatorre a nd Valorie Salimpoor (previously at McGill, now at the Rotman Research Institute at Bay- crest, University of Toronto) have been investigating the most powerful musical experiences—when a piece sends chills down our spines. In a series of experiments, volunteers listened to music they found the most thrilling, while researchers measured heart rate, respiration, skin conducta nce, and other indices of emotional arousal. The greater the self-reported pleasure, the greater the emo- tional arousal. No surprise. But when brain activity was measured, they found the chill-producing music caused more interaction between the auditory cortices and the rewa rd-prediction circuitry: The reward cir- cuitry consta ntly checked its predictions against memories of transporting music. Since the human brain has not changed that much in 42,000 yea rs, in all likelihood those cave-dwelling vulture-bone flutists experienced the very same joy a nd wonder. What music did they recall from their youth? Who can say? ● Music activates the analytic region of the brain and the pleasure center simultaneously. We get pleasure not only from food and sex, but also from complex aesthetics. December 2014 mindful 23 DharmaCraf ts THE CATALOG OF MEDITATION SUPPLIES Meditation Cushions Yoga Mats Inspirational Jewelry Meditation CDs DharmaKids Collection since 1979 dharmacrafts.com 866.339.4198 Keycode MFA Request a Catalog Call for Volume Discounts on Cushions Sign Up for Teaching Emails