Music on the brain 

By Barbara Black

The 2007 conference of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition attracted nearly 250 participants from all over the world to Concordia from July 30 to Aug. 3.

Concordia psychologist Virginia Penhune was active as a presenter and moderator, and many of her students took part. Penhune is using motion capture on a variety of musical tasks to learn more about motor learning and motor control.

Members of the BRAMS (Brain, Music and Sound) project run by the Université de Montréal and McGill held an elegant open house as the conference’s welcoming reception. Rosemary Mountain, of Concordia’s Music Department, showed off her Interactive Multimedia Playroom in Hexagram, and colleague Mark Corwin opened the doors of the Hexagram Pro Tools Sound Studio.

Organizer and Concordia music professor Christine Beckett said motion capture and neuro-imaging are important tools in the field. Functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, is used to document activities of the brain while processing music.

Beckett added that the field of music perception is very hot internationally right now. Because of work being done at McGill, U de M and the Montreal Neurological Institute, Montreal is a global epicenter, “but until this conference, no one was aware of the research being done at Concordia. We had lively introductions from President Lajeunesse and Dean Wild that set the tone for a really successful conference.”

Television station Thirteen/ WNET filmed at the conference for a PBS documentary with the working title The Music Instinct.

In January, Beckett will teach a new survey course about research on music perception and cognition that is open to students across the university. She can be reached at ext. 4711.


Concordia University