Musicophilia: Tales of Music & the Brain, Part 1

I’ve been taking my time reading Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia: Tales of music and the brain (2007). As many of my readers know I am seeking to somehow integrate education and music. I’ve also discussed neuropsychologist and teacher, Judy Willis’ learning strategies developed through her initial understanding of how the brain works. With that in mind, Sacks’ book sounded like a necessary read.

Instead of reading from beginning to end, I chose select chapters that most interested me. And, in this first of a 4-part series, I will be sharing my thoughts on Sacks’ interest in music and epilepsy.

Music and Epilepsy
I read these chapters first as obviously they are very personal to me.
The author first discusses music’s involvement before or during a seizure. While I haven’t discovered what warning I receive before a seizure, many described ears ringing, an aura, or even just a feeling. One patient discussed hearing music just prior to his seizures. The interesting aspect in this patient’s situation was not only the fact that no actual music was playing, but the patient didn’t know the song that was playing. The patient claimed while it sounded vaguely familiar, he didn’t know it. Another interesting aspect is this patient is not musically inclined.

The second patient, on the otherhand, was very musically inclined. At the onset of seizures, he heard music during the seizure. Again the music is familiar yet unknown, and the patient, while a skilled musician, has been unable to replicate it. The patient’s chief complaint is the music is now torturing him rather being appealing.

In both cases, the patients have in effect hallucinating music. The third patient did not. She describes the onset of her seizures was associated with actually listening to a certain style of music. After repeated instances, she ascertained the style of music was indeed the trigger or warning for her seizures. Music, then, became a fear where it was once a love.

In reading these case histories, I have been more pensive, trying to pay attention to what, when, and where I am when both the absence and partial complex seizures occur. It also makes me fearful that the trigger or warning will cause an aversion of something I love. At least I know that writing/typing isn’t inducing seizures. I listen to music to go to sleep. I’ll have to continue to think about it, but I’m beginning to think the trigger/warning is not in this hospital.


About debhalasz

I am a free-lance writer, skilled in writing press-releases, profiles, web copy, articles, and album reviews. I also am a skilled researcher in all areas. I have a MS degree in Educational Pscyhology and am currently in the dissertation phase of my PhD program. My passions are second language learning, learning strategies, music, musicology, neuroscience, and neuroeducation. I am a fan of all genres of music and love learning more about both indie and major-labeled artists as well as the behind-the-scenes people who make them look so good! View all posts by debhalasz

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