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.