Oliver Sacks On Brainworms

Neurologist Oliver Sacks — you know, the dude who inspired Awakenings ?- has a new book music fans might wanna check out (lots of relevant overlaps). Musicophilia: Tales Of Music And The Brain, which looks at the ways music affects the brain, seems crammed with anecdotes and fascinating case studies that’ll sorta literally blow the mind. Can’t wait to read it. For now, there’s an interview with Sacks in this month’s WIRED — part of which is excerpted over at their site. We found the following exchange particularly interesting.

WIRED: When you were growing up, hearing music often required going to see it performed. But iPods make music ubiquitous, like mental air-conditioning. What have we gained or lost by that?

OLIVER SACKS: At first it would seem to be a wonderful gain. Darwin might have had to go to London to see a concert. But I can’t help wondering if the incidence of earworms and musical hallucinations is higher now, with background music in every public place. You can’t go to a restaurant without music, and they get offended if you ask them to turn it off. They feel it’s part of their creativity — they’re doing it for you.

The brain is very sensitive to music; you don’t have to attend to it to record it internally and be affected by it. I think we may be exposed to too much loud and repetitive music. One patient of mine has epileptic seizures induced by music and has to wear earplugs in New York City. It’s a dangerous place for him.

Also, to bolster the ol’ vocab, check out OS discussing brainworms at Amazon. Hey, that?s kinda how we feel about “Young Folks.”

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain is out 10/24 on Knopf. Wonder what he’s listening to…

Tags: Oliver Sacks