Noted neurologist and author Oliver Sacks, M.D. recently passed away (July 9, 1933 – August 30, 2015), but his work bridging science and the human spirit will live on. In one of his most compelling works, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition, he describes the bond between music and our brains and how singing can be good medicine, especially as we age.
In Musicophilia, Sacks explores how music can transform our cognition and our behavior by examining the experience of patients, musicians and everyday people. He tells the stories of a surgeon who is struck by lightning and suddenly becomes obsessed with Chopin, people with “amusia” to whom a symphony sounds like the clattering of pots and pans, and a man whose memory spans only seven seconds for everything but music. Sacks describes how music can animate people with Parkinson’s disease who cannot otherwise speak, and calm and organize people who are deeply disoriented by Alzheimer’s or schizophrenia.
When used in marketing music can be inspiring, “moving us to the heights or depths of emotion.” Here’s a commercial for Toyota Corolla you might remember from last year that uses music to evoke a feeling of nostalgia to tell the story of how Corolla has evolved through the years.