Human Brains May Have Evolved To Innately Love Music

AsianScientist (Apr. 29, 2024) – Scientists have long been fascinated by people’s natural ability to appreciate music despite cultural diversities. Now, a South Korean study published in Nature Communications suggests that music-sensitivity can emerge spontaneously in the human brain without any prior exposure to musical stimuli.

Until recently, the scientific community has been stumped by how neural pathways for processing music develop to give rise to a universal sensitivity to this art form. However, several experimental findings, such as observations of infants and Amazonians also displaying an innate ability to perceive music has led to speculations that explicit musical training might not be required to cultivate a musical instinct.

To look for answers, a research team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) used an artificial deep neural network (DNN)—a virtual brain trained to model human brain behaviour that can learn and process information as real brains do. DNNs have recently proved to be a powerful tool for understanding the development of sensory functions in the human brain.

For the study, the researchers utilized Google’s Audioset, an extensive collection of sound recordings, to train this network with various real-world sounds. The researchers found that certain neurons within the network responded selectively to music, both instrumental and vocal. These same neurons showed minimal sensitivity to non-musical sounds, such as those of animals, nature or machines.

Just like the neurons in the human auditory cortex that process music, the artificial neurons also reacted to how music is timed or structured. For instance, they showed less activity when melodies were fragmented and rearranged, regardless of the musical genre. This encouraged the possibility that similar mechanisms could be replicated in the biological brain.

Intriguingly, when these neurons were inhibited, the network’s ability to accurately recognize other natural sounds was found to be significantly compromised. Based on these findings, the authors concluded that human brains may have evolved to develop an innate music-selective neural function in order to enhance their capacity to effectively process a wide range of real-world sounds.

“The results of our study imply that evolutionary pressure has contributed to forming the universal basis for processing musical information in various cultures,” said Hawoong Jung, a professor at the Department of Physics at KAIST, who led the study.

While the study does not explore the developmental process that occurs after training with music, it is still a significant discovery of our innate relationship with music during early development, made possible through the use of an artificial deep neural network.

“We look forward for this artificially built model with human-like musicality to become an original model for various applications including AI music generation, musical therapy, and for research in musical cognition,” said Jung.

Source: Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology ; Image: Freepik

The article can be found at Spontaneous emergence of rudimentary music detectors in deep neural networks.

Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.


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