Jun 24, 2009 | 10
Carved flutes dating back some 35,000 years were discovered during a dig last summer at an upper Paleolithic site in southwestern Germany, making them among—if not the—oldest documented musical instruments, reports a study published today in Nature (Scientific American is part of the Nature Publishing Group).
These flutes, from the early Aurignacian period, show that there was "a well-established musical tradition at the time when modern humans colonized Europe," write the study authors from the University of Tübingen. The most complete, five-holed flute is made of bone from griffon vultures and is about 8.6 inches (21.8 centimeters) long. Other flute fragments are ivory.
Precise dating of objects older than 30,000 years has been problematic, and although radiocarbon dating has pegged the flutes to at least 35,000 years ago, their placement in the sediment layers in the Hohle Fels Cave suggest that they might be 40,000 years old.
Mar 16, 2009 | 16
Ever wonder how musicians manage to play in unison? Credit their brain waves: they synchronize before and while musicians play a composition, according to new research.
German scientists report in BMC Neuroscience that they measured the brain waves of eight pairs of guitarists using electroencephalography (EEG) while they played a modern jazz piece called "Fusion #1" (by Alexander Buck). The researchers found that the guitarists' brain waves were aligned most during three pivotal times: when they were syncing up with a metronome, when they began playing the piece and at points during the composition that demanded the most synchrony.
Feb 16, 2009 | 4
In the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a character played by Jim Carrey visits an eccentric scientist who wipes out the bad memories of his relationship with Kate Winslet's character using a machine that maps their location in his brain and systematically deletes them. The concept might have seemed preposterous, but today scientists are reporting that a common blood pressure drug can produce a similar effect – not by destroying a memory itself, but by wiping out your fearful reaction to it.
Dutch scientists taught a group of 60 people to fear a spider by mildly shocking their wrists when they showed them a picture of the arachnid. Then, the next time the group were shown the spider, half were given propranolol (a beta-blocker prescribed to lower blood pressure and treat migraines in children), and half a placebo. Those who got the drug didn’t show any strong startle response to the spider, while those who got the placebo continued to have a significant one, according to the research in today’s Nature Neuroscience.
Dec 17, 2008 | 7
Because it's the first thing you consider when you go to a heavy-metal concert, we just thought you should know: Head-banging can be hazardous to your health.
That's right — depending on the tempo of the music and the range of motion of your noggin, you could be looking at a head or neck injury, Australian researchers report in today's British Medical Journal.
Andrew McIntosh, an associate professor of biomechanics at the School of Risk and Safety Sciences as the University of New South Wales, and his research assistant, Declan Patton, attended several hard rock and heavy-metal concerts, taking careful note of the most popular head-banging techniques in the audience.
Oct 15, 2008
Lots of surgeons listen to music in the operating room. And it may even help some patients. At least that’s what New York Times reporter Daniel Wakin concluded from what must have been a very rigorous review of the medical literature two years ago. (One wonders what he listened to while writing.)
But if you don’t like your surgeon’s choice of tunes, you can bring the musical entertainment yourself. That’s what professional bluegrass musician Eddie Adcock did when he went in for brain surgery.
Adcock needed the operation to stop hand tremors that could have hurt his banjo career, reports ABC News. Doctors at Nashville’s Vanderbilt Medical Center implanted electrodes to quiet the brain cells that caused trembling in his hands.
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