3D illustration of brain nervous system

“The Neural Orchestra: Music, Metaphor, and the Brain”

In the last several decades, work across cognitive neurosciences has drawn increasingly frequently on the metaphor of the “neural orchestra,” which maps the activities of localized cortical areas onto sections of a musical ensemble. Although the model was embraced as a novelty in the mid-1990s (a substitute for computational models of cognition), it has much older and more complex roots. 

Members of the Case Western Reserve University community can explore this topic more during a talk hosted by the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities with Francesca Brittan, associate professor in the Department of Music.

This Faculty Work-in-Progress lecture, titled “The Neural Orchestra: Music, Metaphor, and the Brain,” will be held Wednesday, Oct. 12, from noon to 1 p.m. in Clark Hall, Room 206.

Brittan will trace the brain-orchestra to its origins in the early 19th century, when phrenologists first introduced the “multi-instrument” brain, linking ideals of symphonic unanimity and complexity to higher-order cognition. 

Orchestral ideology (especially the authoritarian discourses associated with conductors) shaped early neuroscientific theory, as well as vice versa: the orchestra in the brain was also a brain in the orchestra. 

Today, the historical neuropolitics that generated the mind-orchestra have been largely forgotten, but they continue to exert a spectral influence, hovering behind our descriptions of “orchestrated” attention, our metaphors of neuronal harmony, and our conceptions of the “well-conducted” mind.

An informal lunch will be served during this talk.

Register to attend.