Music touches our hearts, makes us tap our feet and sparks vivid memories. Neurobiological studies have shown that music arouses feelings of euphoria and craving (Salimpoor et. al., 2011) and activates neural pleasure and reward pathways, similar to those that are activated with food, drugs and sex (Blood and Zatorre, 2001). Music can be used a pedagogical tool for teaching science and math, and can also be a way of popularizing both subjects. Although science itself has not traditionally been a subject or source of inspiration for music, the beauty of the natural world has. And, as scientific inquiry seeks a deeper view of the natural worlds beauty, music can be an emotional medium through which science as a process and as a human endeavor can be communicated and illuminated. It is with these ideas in mind, the National Institute for Mathematical and Biology Synthesis (NIMBioS) created the Songwriter- in-Residence Program to encourage the creation of songs about involving ideas of modern biology and the lives of scientists who pursue research in biology. This paper describes the innovative use of music as a method to communicate science and offer as a case study the NIMBioS Songwriter-in-Residence Program, which supported the residencies of four professional singer-songwriters during the 2010-2011 academic year. Rather than using music as an instructional tool to teach scientific concepts, the program was intended to communicate to the public the excitement and wonder of science and mathematics. The program’s goals are described and evaluated using a variety of online analytic tools to determine the “reach” of the program and to assess audiences and usage. The study also describes an unintended benefit of the program: scientists who interacted with the songwriter began to think more deeply about how to break down language barriers inherent in communicating with lay audiences.

Blood, A.J. and Zatorre, R.J. (2001). Intensely pleasurable responses to music correlate with activity in brain regions implicated in reward and emotion. PNAS, 98 (20), 11818- 11823.
Salimpoor, V., Benovoy, M., Larcher, K., Dagher, A., and Zatoree, R.J. (2011). Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music. Nature Neuroscience, 14, 257262.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Just can’t get you out of my head
Communicating science through music

Catherine Crawley   National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, Univ. of Tennessee

Music touches our hearts, makes us tap our feet and sparks vivid memories. Neurobiological studies have shown that music arouses feelings of euphoria and craving (Salimpoor et. al., 2011) and activates neural pleasure and reward pathways, similar to those that are activated with food, drugs and sex (Blood and Zatorre, 2001). Music can be used a pedagogical tool for teaching science and math, and can also be a way of popularizing both subjects. Although science itself has not traditionally been a subject or source of inspiration for music, the beauty of the natural world has. And, as scientific inquiry seeks a deeper view of the natural worlds beauty, music can be an emotional medium through which science as a process and as a human endeavor can be communicated and illuminated. It is with these ideas in mind, the National Institute for Mathematical and Biology Synthesis (NIMBioS) created the Songwriter- in-Residence Program to encourage the creation of songs about involving ideas of modern biology and the lives of scientists who pursue research in biology. This paper describes the innovative use of music as a method to communicate science and offer as a case study the NIMBioS Songwriter-in-Residence Program, which supported the residencies of four professional singer-songwriters during the 2010-2011 academic year. Rather than using music as an instructional tool to teach scientific concepts, the program was intended to communicate to the public the excitement and wonder of science and mathematics. The program’s goals are described and evaluated using a variety of online analytic tools to determine the “reach” of the program and to assess audiences and usage. The study also describes an unintended benefit of the program: scientists who interacted with the songwriter began to think more deeply about how to break down language barriers inherent in communicating with lay audiences.

Blood, A.J. and Zatorre, R.J. (2001). Intensely pleasurable responses to music correlate with activity in brain regions implicated in reward and emotion. PNAS, 98 (20), 11818- 11823.
Salimpoor, V., Benovoy, M., Larcher, K., Dagher, A., and Zatoree, R.J. (2011). Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music. Nature Neuroscience, 14, 257262.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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