Neuroscientist Joe LeDoux on moonlighting as a musician

Fans of science-based music may already be familiar with The Amygdaloids, the NYC band fronted by NYU neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux. LeDoux has just published two pieces about his musical endeavors and their connections to his research: The flip side: scientists who rock (Trends in Cognitive Sciences 15: 335-7, 2011) and Music and the brain, literally (Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 5: 49, 2011).

Some choice nuggets from the first piece are as follows:

The two wings of academia are the arts and the sciences. Within the university, they stand back to back, looking in different directions like a Janus-faced statue. But, when the day job ends, scientists are known to seek out the arts in one form or another, either as consumers or producers. Scientists, after all, are just people, and most people are drawn to art…. People need art, even scientists.

We often hear about the power of music to relax, heal, to draw people together, and to communicate. I concur. Playing music makes me a healthier, happier person…. I sometimes get asked how I find time to make music. I always answer the same way. I’m a better scientist, husband, father (and every other role I perform) because I find the time to make music.

And here’s an interesting excerpt from the second piece:

I get asked quite a lot about the relation of music and the brain. But that’s not really my area of research. I try to connect music and the brain lyrically rather than through scientific activity. I do not have any formal musical training, and do not really know what the right questions to ask are. I suppose I could come up with some studies of emotion and music, but have not felt that urge. Some really talented scientists are involved in this field, such as Robert Zatorre, Dan Levitin, Mark Tramo. They are doing a fabulous job of uncovering all sorts of fascinating things about how the psychology of music relates to the biology of the brain. I am just happy to writes [sic] songs and play music.

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