Music provides a tool to study numerous aspects of neuroscience, from motor-skill learning to emotion. Indeed, from a psychologist's point of view, listening to and producing music involves a tantalizing mix of practically every human cognitive function. Even a seemingly simple activity, such as humming a familiar tune, necessitates complex auditory pattern-processing mechanisms, attention, memory storage and retrieval, motor programming, sensory-motor integration, and so forth.
Figure 17 shows the path for processing the sound waves from a musical instrument.
- Sound waves travel to the outer ear.
- The sound waves are transduced into neural impulses by the inner ear.
- The information travels through several waystations in the brainstem and midbrain to reach the auditory cortex.
- The auditory cortex analyses and interprets the various aspects of the sound.
- Information from this region interacts with many other brain areas, especially the frontal lobe, for memory formation and interpretation.
- The orbitofrontal region is one of many involved in emotional evaluation.
- The motor cortex is involved in sensory-motor feedback circuits, and in controlling the movements needed to produce music using an instrument.