Harvard College

Fall Term, 2008-2009 Academic Year

 September 15 – December 16, 2008


Mind/Brain/Behavior 91: Music & The Brain

Wednesdays 6:30 – 9:30 PM

William James Hall, 13th Floor, Room 1305




Updated October 13, 2008





Mark Jude Tramo, MD, PhD

Director, The Institute for Music & Brain Science

Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School & Massachusetts General Hospital

Steering Committee, Harvard University Mind/Brain/Behavior Interfaculty Initiative

Board of Honors Tutors, Department of Psychology, Harvard University

Teaching Affiliate, Department of Biology, Harvard University

Research Affiliate, Research Laboratory of Electornics, M.I.T.

Songwriter Member, ASCAP



Office hours by appointment, The Institute for Music & Brain Science, 175 Cambridge St, Suite 340, Room 382, Boston


Course Description

MBB 91: Music & The Brain, now in its 12th year in the FAS courses of instruction (formerly Psychology 987b), takes a multidisciplinary approach to understanding neural systems governing music perception, performance, and cognition. The course begins with a series of lectures by Professor Tramo that provides students with diverse backgrounds a common fund of knowledge in functional neuroanatomy, auditory neurophysiology, psychoacoustics, cognitive psychology, and music.  Thereafter, individual seminars focus on specific themes, such as pitch perception, harmony perception, emotion and meaning in music, development, and creativity.  Seminars are designed to help students: 1) understand methodologies currently used to investigate physical-perceptual-neural correlates; 2) cultivate analytical skills through critical appraisals of "primary-source" experimental literature published in peer-reviewed science, medical, music, and education journals; and 3) develop oral presentation skills in a supervised setting.  Semi-weekly reading and homework problem sets from the required text, Rossing's Science of Sound, solidify working knowledge of basic concepts (e.g., resonance, decibels, scales) needed for the advanced readings that are the springboard for each seminar’s provocative discussions of neuroscientific data collection and analysis methods, results, interpretation, and corroboration. By the end of the course, students will have both a broad understanding of empirical research in cognitive neuroscience and specific knowledge about brain mechanisms mediating music perception and performance.



Secondary school mathematics and physics. No music background necessary.  If you are not familiar with the vocabulary of music, get the Harvard Dictionary of Music, which is listed below under Recommended Books and is available at the Coop and Harvard University Press bookstore on Massachusetts Avenue, the Music Library, and on-line. 



The Harvard Coop ordered only 12 of the 20 copies of our required text that I requested, and they had only 6 copies as of this afternoon.  Since there are problem sets due next week, ordering the 2001 edition of Science of Sound overnight via Amazon is highly recommended.  Professor Tramo is connected with a charitable organization and would be glad to help – please email mtramo@hms.harvard.edu if you are interested.


            The Science of Sound, Rossing, Moore, and Wheeler, 2001

            Weekly Articles from Professional Journals posted at www.BrainMusic.org -> Education -> Institute’s eLibrary -> download the assigned PDF


            The Harvard Dictionary of Music: Fourth Edition, D.M. Randel (Editor), 2003

            Introduction to the Psychology of Hearing, 5th Edition, Brian Moore, 2003

            The Psychology of Music, 2nd Edition, Diana Deutsch (Editor), 1999

            Music, Language, and the Brain, Aniruddh D. Patel, 2007


Requirements & Grading

• Weekly attendance and participation in seminar discussions that reflects you have read the assigned journal papers (20-25%)

• Performance on homework problem sets (35-40%)

• Oral presentations of papers using overheads or powerpoint at 2-3 seminars (35-40%; first presentation is not graded to allow for practice and feedback)

• No exams, no term papers

• Check www.BrainMusic.org Education link for updated Syllabus and Homework assignments



Lecture & Seminar Schedule


September 17: Lecture I

• Course Overview

• Music Cognition

• Human Brain Organization

Professor Tramo

Click here for Homework Due Sept 24




Sept 19tht

Study Card due for Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors, & Graduate Students

  Sept 22nd

Study Card due for Freshmen




September 24: Lecture II

• Pictures of Sound

• Experimental Methods in Neuroscience

• Experimental Methods in Psychophysics

Professor Tramo

Click here for Homework Due Oct 1




Oct 1st

Last day to drop or add a course without incurring a fee




October 1: Lecture III

• Pictures of Music

• Experimental Methods in Cognitive Psychology

• Anatomy of the Peripheral and Central Auditory Nervous Systems

Professor Tramo

Click here for Homework Due Oct 8




October 8: Seminar I

• Frequency Processing & Pitch Perception:

Psychophysics & Functional Neuroanatomy

Study Section Team A & Professor Tramo

Click here for Homework Due Oct 15




October 15: Seminar II

• Frequency Processing & Pitch Perception:

Functional Neuroanatomy & Neural Coding

Study Section Team A & Professor Tramo

Click here for Homework Due Oct 22




Oct 13th

Last day to drop or add a course or change to or from letter-graded or pass/fail.




October 22: Seminar III

• Pitch Perception: Review

• Harmony Perception in the Vertical Dimension: Psychophysics

• Laboratory Exercise: Finding your ∆f for Maximal Roughness & Just Noticeable Roughness

using Two Sine Wave Function Generators & the Method of Adjustment

Study Section Team B & Professor Tramo

Click here for Homework Due Oct 29




Oct 27th

Last day to petition to withdraw from a course.




October 29: Seminar IV

• Harmony Perception in the Vertical Dimension:

Cognitive Psychology & Functional Neuroanatomy

Study Section Team B & Professor Tramo

Click here for Homework Due Nov 5




November 5: Seminar V

• Harmony Perception in the Vertical Dimension: Neural Coding

• Harmony Perception in the Horizontal Dimension: Cognitive Psychology

Study Section Teams B & C,& Professor Tramo

Click here for Homework Due Nov 12




November 12: Seminar VI

• Creativity in Music:

Functional Neuroanatomy & Psychopathology

Study Section Team D & Dr. Berkowitz, Harvard Music Department

Click here for Homework Due Nov 19




November 19: Seminar VII

• Creativity in Music: Review

• Harmony Perception in the Horizontal Dimension:

Functional Neuroanatomy & Neurophysiology

Study Section Team E & Professor Tramo

Click here for Homework Due Nov 26




November 26: Thanksgiving

No Homework Due Dec 3




December 3: Seminar VII

• Harmony Perception: Review

• Melody & Rhythm Perception: Cognitive Psychology,

Functional Neuroanatomy, & Neurology

Study Section Teams E & F & Professor Tramo

Click here for Homework Due Dec 10




December 10: Seminar X

• Emotion & Meaning in Music:
Psychophysiology, Functional Neuroanatomy, & Neurochemistry

Study Section Team G & Professor Tramo

• Intelligence & Talent in Music

Study Section Team H & Professor Tramo

Last Day to Hand in Outstanding Homework

Last Day of Reading Period is Deadline for Emailing Outstanding Homework