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Talk music to ears

Thursday 8 March 2018 11:50am

Professor David Bilkey discusses the brain's response to music and sound.

The science behind why we respond to sound was music to the ears of alumni and Otago supporters who attended the ABC with Otago Lecture at Dunedin’s University Book Shop on Tuesday 6 March.

As guests arrived to mingle, browse books and enjoy nibbles, first-year music, theatre studies and psychology student Bethany Cook played guitar and sang.

Musicophilia 216 Bethany
Bethany Cook entertains guests

In the following presentation, which also marked the start of "Brain Week", Otago neuroscientist Professor David Bilkey used audio clips to illustrate why we perceive sound in certain ways, and about the mechanics of sound, which parts of the brain process certain information, and why various types of aural stimuli elicit certain emotional or physical responses.

Professor Bilkey talked “around” concepts he found especially interesting in Oliver Sacks’ best-selling book Musicophilia.

After the talk he and guests discussed a wide range of topics relating to music, sound and the brain, with one attendee describing how she had played music to dementia patients as part of her PhD research and found they responded most to marches.

The book-centric evening is run in conjunction with the University Book Shop, and DARO thanks them for their ongoing support – we will list details and registration information of future ABC events here.

ALUMNI FACT: The Development and Alumni Relations Office thanks all alumni and supporters who donated to the University of Otago’s Brain Health Research Centre and Brain Research via our 2017 Annual Appeal. Among a range of research projects, the Centre is working on a better way of diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease earlier.

Biochem.Child Cancer.Joanna Williams and samples
Dr Margaret Ryan takes blood samples from the deep freeze to prepare them for testing

Molecules in the blood called microRNA offer clues. Findings show that several microRNA are altered in people with the disease, and that three of these in particular can be used to identify those with the disease. When these markers are analysed together with a specific genetic marker that is a known disease risk factor, the team is able to accurately identify Alzheimer’s disease 86% of the time.

Researchers from a range of disciplines, including Anatomy, Biochemistry and Psychology, are developing a blood test which can identify people with Alzheimer’s disease. This work is now at a very promising stage - we thank you for supporting this important research.